by Michael J. Shapiro | June 21, 2018

The United States District Court for the Southern District of Florida has rejected trademark-infringement claims by Hard Rock Hotels against RockStar Hotels, a collection of luxury boutique independent properties. In its decision, the court acknowledged that "rock star" has multiple meanings, and that the experiences provided by the two hotel groups in question were sufficiently different to avoid confusion in the marketplace.

RockStar Hotels, which was launched by hotel-industry vet Robert Santucci in January 2017, is a collection of about 140 independent hotels around the world that purport to treat guests like rock stars, whether or not those guests actually rock. The collection of pre-vetted, luxury properties combine lodging with a VIP experience, as determined by RockStar Hotels, for guests seeking unique and occasionally offbeat travel memories. RockStar sends an in-house corporate team to identify hotels for the collection; once selected as members, the hotels are visited by RockStar execs every three to four months to confirm that RockStar quality levels are maintained.
"This is a great victory for the independent entrepreneur facing intimidation by Goliath," said Santucci, president of RockStar. "We have a notably distinct offering aimed at discerning travelers, and we are very appreciative of the court's decisive recognition that in no way do we infringe on Hard Rock's identity or offerings."
Once hotels become part of the portfolio, RockStar team members research the geographic area to find unique VIP experiences that can be coordinated with a stay -- such as opera invitations, private fittings with a fashion designer or cooking classes with a local Michelin-starred chef, to name a few examples.
RockStar currently has hotel members in 14 countries, with two more coming soon. Among the collection are six in the U.S., including New York City's Arlo Soho,  San Diego's Tower 23 Hotel and Huntley Santa Monica Beach in California.

At press time, Hard Rock Hotels had not responded to a request for comment.