Hogan Lovells wins for Hard Rock Cafe Group in trademark and unfair competition dispute

Hogan Lovells has achieved a major victory in a trademark and unfair competition dispute for the Hard Rock Cafe Group before the Federal Supreme Court in Germany.

On 15 August 2013, the Supreme Court found that a bogus restaurant, operating in Heidelberg, Germany, under the identical name and logo of the Hard Rock Cafe, violated the Hard Rock Cafe Group trademark and was in breach of German unfair competition law for selling unofficial Hard Rock Cafe merchandise. The Heidelberg restaurant has also been found to be liable to pay damages to the Hard Rock Cafe Group — the amount of which still needs to be determined.

The case is significant because the Heidelberg restaurant was operating in the area before the official Hard Rock Cafe Group entered the German market and protected its rights in Germany. The Supreme Court found that it was irrelevant whether the Heidelberg establishment had been selling its merchandise in Germany before the official Hard Rock Cafe Group but what was more important was the confusion it was causing among customer, who were being duped into thinking they were buying products from the official Hard Rock Cafe — not knowing that the Heidelberg restaurant was not part of the Hard Rock Cafe Group.

The Supreme Court has referred the case back to the prior instance court in Karlsruhe to decide whether the use of the Hard Rock Cafe logo in connection with the operation and promotion of the restaurant in Heidelberg also violates trademarks of the Hard Rock Cafe Group and German unfair competition law.

The Supreme Court has stated that, in any event, the Heidelberg restaurant needs to use clarifications to ensure consumers realise that the Heidelberg restaurant is not part of the original Hard Rock Cafe Group.

Morten Petersenn, a partner in Hogan Lovells’ Hamburg office acted for the Hard Rock Cafe Group on this case.

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