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July 27, 2015

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Hard Rock brand sues, cites Rehab behavior at Las Vegas hotel

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Tiffany Brown

On any given summer Sunday, hundreds pack the pool at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino for Rehab.

Rehab party at Hard Rock (2008)

A UCLA law student, Carrie Richeu, nibbles strawberries poolside with friends during a Rehab in late June. Launch slideshow »

Exposure: Vegas Daylife (VIEWER DISCRETION ADVISED)

Summer stretches into a five-month Spring Break at Rehab. The Hard Rock pool has helped transformed Vegas nightlife into "daylife." (Viewer discretion advised. The content of this video might be objectionable to some viewers.)

The owner of the international Hard Rock brand no longer wants its name associated with the Las Vegas Hard Rock hotel-casino and is suing to cancel their licensing agreement, citing negative publicity from the Rehab pool parties and reality TV series.

Orlando-based Hard Rock Cafe International (USA) Inc. (HRCI) sued the owners of the Las Vegas hotel as well as Rehab's producer and broadcaster Tuesday in federal court in New York.

"The behavior depicted in the Rehab television program that is authorized, created and distributed by defendants is entirely at odds with the brand image of the Hard Rock marks (trademarks) and is likely to damage and has damaged the goodwill of the Hard Rock marks among consumers,'' the lawsuit charges. "Among other things, Rehab portrays the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino, a property operated under trademarks owned and licensed by Hard Rock Cafe International, as a destination that revels in drunken debauchery, acts of vandalism, sexual harassment, violence, criminality and a host of other behavior that most members of the general consuming public of the United States who regularly frequent or are potential patrons of HRCI’s Hard Rock Cafe restaurants and other properties operated under the Hard Rock marks would find unseemly and objectionable.''

Sued was Las Vegas Hard Rock owner Hard Rock Hotel Holdings LLC, which is majority owned by international financial giant Credit Suisse's DLJ Merchant Banking Partners unit.

A request for comment on the lawsuit was placed with Morgans Hotel Group in New York, which manages the Las Vegas Hard Rock and has a minority ownership stake in the property.

Also sued were Turner Broadcasting System of Atlanta, which the lawsuit says has broadcast on its truTV cable TV channel since November 2008 the show "Rehab: Party at the Hard Rock Hotel,'' as well as show producer Brad Lachman Productions Inc. of Burbank, Calif.

The Rehab show "purports to depict events'' during summer pool parties at the 1,500-room Paradise Road hotel-casino, several blocks east of the Las Vegas Strip.

A problem with Rehab, the lawsuit asserts, is that it portrays the staff of the Las Vegas Hard Rock hotel-casino "as unprofessional, incompetent, and/or physically and emotionally abusive to hotel guests and other staff.''

"HRCI prides itself on offering guests at its Hard Rock Cafe restaurants and other properties operated under the Hard Rock marks dining and entertainment experiences that are pleasurable, fun and consistent with the democratic free spirit of rock music. In contrast, Rehab associates HRCI’s Hard Rock marks with conduct on the part of both hotel guests and staff that is offensive, depraved and deeply damaging to the Hard Rock marks and their inherent goodwill.''

The lawsuit also charges the actual pool parties -- not the reality show -- have harmed the Hard Rock brand by associating it with criminal activity as Las Vegas police arrested eight people at Rehab one year ago on prostitution and drug charges.

The show has caused customers around the country of various Hard Rock properties to complain, the suit says.

Complaints cited in the lawsuit include:

-- "My wife and I travel to Las Vegas every other year and stay at the Hard Rock; I'm sorry to tell you that our family will not stay there ever again. I saw Rehab on truTV and was appalled by your 'Little Hitler' Matt -- the so-called manager. I never would take the time to write such an e-mail, but watching him call your employees 'stupid' and a 'whore' just angered me to the point where I felt compelled to write. His only management technique is 'I'm gonna fire you.' He also says things like it's her time of the month.' Can't decide if it's a moronic attempt by Hard Rock to boost ratings, but your sorry butts should be sued by your employees for allowing and creating a hostile work environment, and sexual harassment!!??!!''

-- "I have watched this season’s episodes of Rehab and I must say after seeing the behavior of Matt, I am certain that I will not be attending any more events at Hard Rock in Dallas or any other city. In addition, I will recommend to those I know planning events that they choose other venues. His behavior is deplorable and if those are the types of individuals that Hard Rock promotes, then your venue is not a venue that I ever want to frequent again."

The lawsuit says Hard Rock Cafe International complained about Rehab to the Las Vegas property owners, but the allegedly offensive nature of the program is continuing in its third season.

Hard Rock Cafe also complained the Las Vegas property owners have misused the Hard Rock brand at the Hard Rock hotel-casinos in Tulsa, Okla., and Albuquerque, N.M., where in both locations Hard Rock Cafe alleges "the range of services, character of the establishment and the experience offered to customers is incompatible with consumer expectations for goods and services branded with the Hard Rock marks.''

Hard Rock Cafe also charged the Las Vegas property owners have registered without authorization website addresses such as cherokeehardrockhotel.com, hrhpokeronline.com and hardrockroyalty.com.

The lawsuit, alleging breach of contract, trademark infringement and other claims, seeks a court order terminating the Hard Rock licensing agreement between Hard Rock Cafe and the owners of the Las Vegas property.

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