The owners of the Verb Hotel in the Fenway, which uses old Phoenix covers to help create an homage to the Boston music scene, is suing Hard Rock Cafe to block it from opening a chain of music-themed hotels called Reverb.
In a suit filed yesterday in US District Court, Verb's owners, Fenway Enterprises, say the new Hard Rock chain would confuse consumers into thinking Verb is somehow part of the Hard Rock effort - and would put a damper on its own plans to "expand its hotel brand into new locations under the VERB Mark, each of which will pay homage to local music scenes."
In its complaint, Fenway Enterprises notes it filed a trademark application under "hotel services" for Verb in 2014 and that the hotel has garnered national attention for its loving devotion to the Boston music scene, aided by Phoenix covers supplied by former publisher Stephen Mindich and memorabilia from WBCN and other local sources.
The very idea of the hotel, the company says, stems from a visit one of its owners, developer Steve Samuels to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in which he saw a song scribbled by Randy Newman on some stationery from the Fenway Motor Lodge, which sat on the site before it became a Howard Johnson's and then Verb.
Rather than tear down the old motel, Plaintiff spent millions of dollars revitalizing the property into a unique, authentic, retro hotel with modern amenities that pays homage to the storied musical past of the Fenway neighborhood.
So, the suit continues, a judge should understand why Verb, which recently won city approval to add ten rooms in the shape of replica Airstream mobile homes, wouldn't want to be associated with the tawdry Hard Rock chain:
The Hard Rock brand is generally associated with glitzy, overstated, chain hotels with Hard Rock merchandise gifts shops that convey an inauthentic experience. For example, Hard Rock will soon be opening a giant guitar-shaped hotel in Florida, which the Miami Herald described as "a monstrosity that has offended nature itself." ...
At the time of the opening of the Verb in 2014, the Boston Globe distinguished the authentic experience offered under the VERB Mark from the inauthentic offerings under the Hard Rock brand, noting that the Verb is not “Hard Rock, a brand of rock-and-roll nostalgia that is as authentic as Milli Vanilli” (referencing the 1990s pop music pair that became infamous for secretly lip syncing their recordings and performances).
In addition, the Hard Rock Hotel brand has a negative reputation among many consumers as being associated with binge drinking, drug abuse, sexual harassment, and debauchery.
Left unchecked, Reverb would harm Verb, the suit continues:
Due to the "massive global presence" of the Hard Rock brand, consumers are likely to believe that the Reverb is a renewed, reset, restored, rebooted, revitalized, reimagined, reincarnated or reloaded version of the Verb. Consumers who may have been dissatisfied or even offended during their stay at a Hard Rock hotel or after watching Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel, are likely to decide not to stay at the Verb because they mistakenly believe the Verb hotel is associated with the Reverb hotel.
The suit adds Hard Rock was well aware of Verb when it thought up Reverb - not only had Verb garnered attention in the national press, Fenway Enterprises asked Hard Rock several times to think up a different name.
The complaint asks a judge to order Hard Rock to knock it off with the Reverb name, order the US Patent and Trademark Office to rescind the trademark it granted it and to pay Fenway Enterprises and its lawyers for their trouble, with any damages trebled in amount.