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Hard Rock International court filing cites ‘shocking acts’ in Las Vegas

HRH Tower

Leila Navidi

The valet entrance for the new HRH Tower at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas Monday, December 28, 2009.

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 »

Map of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

Hard Rock Hotel & Casino

4455 Paradise Road, Las Vegas

Drug dealing and other wrongdoing by Las Vegas Hard Rock hotel-casino employees and managers is one more reason the casino should lose its rights to the Hard Rock brand, the owner of the international Hard Rock brand says.

In court papers filed Friday in New York in the trademark litigation between Hard Rock Cafe International (USA) Inc. of Orlando and the Las Vegas Hard Rock, attorneys for the Orlando company said they plan to amend their lawsuit to include recent revelations about drug dealing and inappropriate sexual activity at the Las Vegas property.

The Orlando-based Hard Rock company, controlled by Florida's Seminole tribe with extensive gaming interests, sued the Las Vegas Hard Rock in September.

Hard Rock Cafe complained in the lawsuit that the now-canceled "Rehab" reality TV show at the Las Vegas hotel-casino was degrading the Hard Rock brand by portraying "drunken debauchery, acts of vandalism, sexual harassment, violence and criminality." The lawsuit demanded the Las Vegas property stop using the Hard Rock name.

The 1,500-room Paradise Road Las Vegas property, controlled by international bank Credit Suisse Group AG and Morgans Hotel Group of New York, fired back in a counterclaim, claiming the trademark lawsuit was part of a campaign of business harassment by Hard Rock Cafe against the Las Vegas company. The Las Vegas company also noted its bikini-and-alcohol dominated Rehab parties are similar to the "Detox" parties at the Hard Rock Cafe's casino in Biloxi, Miss.

The latest episode at issue in the lawsuit in U.S. District Court in New York is the Las Vegas Hard Rock's Dec. 30 agreement to pay $650,000 to settle a state Gaming Control Board complaint that said its employees and managers were involved in drug sales and providing a nightclub restroom for sex.

In a brief opposing dismissal of the trademark lawsuit, Hard Rock Cafe attorneys on Friday wrote the Las Vegas drug and sex incidents amount to violations of the cafe's trademark rights and breaches of the Hard Rock license agreement -- including a "best efforts" clause in which the parties are supposed to use their best efforts to protect the brand.

Friday's filing said "the affiliate of the Hard Rock defendants that holds the gaming license for the Las Vegas Hard Rock Hotel & Casino was charged by the Nevada State Gaming Control Board with multiple counts of illegal conduct, including drug-dealing by employees and the facilitation of acts of prostitution on the premises of a property that bears Hard Rock Cafe International's iconic Hard Rock marks."

"These shocking acts ... violate multiple provisions of the license agreement," the cafe's attorneys wrote.

Besides the new legal assault, the Hard Rock Cafe's public relations operation also criticized the Las Vegas Hard Rock over the drug incidents.

In a statement Tuesday, Hard Rock International Inc. (also known as Hard Rock Cafe International Inc.) said "the conduct described in the (Nevada Gaming Board) complaint is wholly at odds with our corporate policies and contrary to the values our world-famous Hard Rock brand embodies."

"No employee or agent of Hard Rock International has anything whatsoever to do with the allegations made by the Nevada State Gaming Control Board in its complaint.

"Hard Rock International has no operational involvement in the business of Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas.

"The Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas property is owned by a group of different companies and is operated independently of all U.S. properties owned or franchised by Hard Rock International, including all of our Hard Rock Cafe restaurants, as well as hotel or hotel/casino properties located in San Diego, Chicago, Biloxi, Orlando, Tampa and Hollywood, Fla.

"Our (September) lawsuit was prompted in part by our concerns about conduct similar to what is described in the Gaming Control Board's complaint," the Orlando company said.

The Las Vegas Hard Rock and its attorneys haven't yet responded to these latest criticisms.

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