Friday, Jan. 8, 2010 | 2:05 a.m.
Will anyone mistake a neighborhood video poker bar in Henderson with the big Mystic Lake Casino Hotel near Minneapolis?
That question was raised Wednesday when the owner of the 600-room Mystic Lake Casino Hotel in Minnesota filed a trademark lawsuit against the owner of the Mystic Lodge Casino at 920 S. Boulder Highway in Henderson.
The Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, owner of the Minnesota hotel-casino, filed suit in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas against Templeton Gaming Corp. of Las Vegas and Templeton executive Hugh Templeton.
The Mystic Lake Casino Hotel — with a 2,100-seat showroom featuring acts such as Emmylou Harris and a location near the massive Mall of America — says it opened in 1992 and now has 800,000 rewards/promotion card members around the country, including some 1,900 with Nevada addresses.
Over the past five years, Mystic Lake Casino Hotel says, it has spent more than $17 million on advertising, has received news coverage in national publications such as the New York Times and USA Today and is recognized “because of its notoriety as one of the largest tribal government-owned casinos in the nation.”
The tribe says it owns several “Mystic” trademarks involving gaming, entertainment and dining services and that in March 2009 it learned the Henderson casino was using the Mystic name.
The tribe says it demanded that Templeton Gaming stop using the Mystic trademark, but that Templeton Gaming, through its counsel, as recently as Dec. 12 refused to do so.
The Henderson casino is your basic neighborhood video poker bar with a café.
According to its Web sites, it recently hosted a Santa Run to collect Christmas toys for deserving youngsters and in April is hosting a car show, with proceeds benefiting the Basic High School Marine Corps JROTC.
It also supports the Henderson VFW Post 3848, St. Jude’s Ranch for Children, the Ray of Hope Foundation, the Henderson Girl Scouts and Koats for Kids.
Greg “Greaser” Bashaw, commander of VFW Post 3848, was surprised to learn Thursday that the Mystic Lodge was in a legal dispute with the Mystic Lake.
“I’ve never heard of the the Mystic Lake Casino,” Bashaw said.
He said the Mystic Lodge for years has been supportive of the community, going back several years when it had different owners and was called Charlie Holder’s Casino.
Bashaw said when Templeton Gaming acquired the property a few years ago, the VFW wondered if the casino would continue to support its car shows.
“They said, ‘Go ahead, you have a home here,’” Bashaw said, adding the Mystic Lodge not only provides space for free for the events but also contributes cash raised from food sales during the shows.
“They really work with the community,” Bashaw said.
Being so locally focused, is its use of the Mystic name really a threat to the larger Minnesota gaming operation, which boasts that it has 4,000 slot machines and 100 table games?
Las Vegas trademark attorney Ryan Gile, who is not associated with the case and has a blog on trademark law, said the likelihood is small that Las Vegas-area residents would confuse Mystic Lodge as being associated with Mystic Lake.
“I’ve never heard of them,” Gile said of both the Minnesota casino and the Henderson casino.
Gile, however, said the tribe may have a strong case since its registration of the Mystic trademark for casino services dates back many years.
“That gives them nationwide rights for use of that name,” he said.
Gile, with the firm Weide & Miller specializing in trademark, patent and other intellectual property issues, said the Mystic Lodge may try to make the case that the addition of the word “Lodge” to its name differentiates it from the Minnesota casino.
The Mystic Lodge may also argue that since Mystic Lake is not operating in the Las Vegas area, there’s no issue locally about the name.
But, Gile noted, the tribe could show Minnesota residents familiar with Mystic Lake could travel to Southern Nevada and be confused about the ownership of the Mystic Lodge brand.
And the tribe, in its lawsuit, says it’s worried that companies infringing on its Mystic name may dilute the value of the trademark.
“By using the Mystic mark in connection with the Nevada casino without the authorization of (Mystic Lake), defendants are and have been willfully and intentionally trading upon the goodwill (Mystic Lake) has at its considerable expense and effort developed in (Mystic Lake’s) marks. Defendants have thereby caused and are thereby causing (Mystic Lake) substantial and irreparable harm and injury, as to which (Mystic Lake) has no adequate remedy at law,” charged Mystic Lake’s lawsuit, filed by attorney Rodney Jean of the Las Vegas law firm Lionel Sawyer & Collins.
“(Mystic Lake) has no control over the quality of the services defendants provide and/or have provided using the Mystic mark. The invaluable goodwill represented in (Mystic Lake’s) marks is thereby wrongfully put at the mercy of defendants,” the lawsuit says.
A Templeton Gaming spokesman declined comment on the lawsuit, citing a company policy of not commenting on pending litigation.