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Treble in paradise: Verb Hotel wants to expand nationally, but first sues Hard Rock Cafe over its planned hotel chain called Reverb

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.

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Comments

If I saw a place called reverb I would associate it with verb and not want to go there either

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Why would we confuse verb and reverb? Do they think that one would be more renoun than the other? What are their adjectives?

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it's common in musician parlance when talking about reverb to use the shorter 'verb.

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check the puns ...

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can still get $17 cocktails we'll be fine.

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both for sheer audacity, and for a certain linguistic logic. The name openly declares the rip-off, and has a rock-music association that the original doesn't. It's almost like whoever named Verb was expecting this to happen.

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A restaurant/hotel that has very specific memorabilia on the walls, or a restaurant/hotel that has a broad range of memorabilia on the walls?

Specificity creates uniqueness, is that authentic?
Broadcasting for a wider audience waters down the aesthetic, but it still tastes like rock n roll.

Was the Rat in Kenmore authentic? Was the original HOB in Harvard Sq.?
Is the new HOB on Landsdowne St.? Was the Avalon before it? The Tea Party before it?

The Verb is a cool vibe, and also a good business plan. Is the legal argument about aesthetics, or competition? What argument would be authentic?

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Verb is arguing people would get confused about its association with Reverb and that that is particularly harmful because Hard Rock Cafe has such a bad reputation.

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not to mention the wasting of court and other resources, is accelerating at a blistering pace.

"Noun" and forgetaboutit.

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And rock is dead. Move on.

The numbers on the recent Tool album suggest not.

Even genres that were given up for dead, like klezmer, have shown a remarkable ability to come back.

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My legal and marketing budgets just quadrupled for my hotel venture Adverbly Hospitable Inc.

Damn you, competition!

There's a musical instrument distributor called Reverb as well.