Monday, January 5, 2009

Harrah’s Sues Indiana Strip Club Over “Horseshoe” Trademark

On December 30, 2008, Harrah's License Company, LLC – the IP holding company for Harrah's Operating Company, Inc., the owner and operator of over 38 casinos worldwide – filed a lawsuit against Indiana resident John Mattingly in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Indiana. See Harrah's License Company, LLC v. Mattingly, Case No. 08-cv-00219 (S.D. Ind.). A copy of the complaint can be downloaded here.

Back in 2004, Harrah’s acquired all of the intellectual property then owned by Binion’s Horseshoe – most famously known for “The World Series of Poker” – after Binion’s Horseshoe was forced to shut down following the seizure of all of the casino’s money by federal agents in order to satisfy a judgment owed to several unions.

As part of the purchase, Harrah’s acquired the “Horseshoe” name, including several trademark registrations for casino services and hotel, restaurant and bar services. As part of its use of the “Horseshoe” name, Harrah’s has used the following logo:

Harrah’s operates five casinos under the HORSESHOE name including two in Indiana (one in Elizabeth, Indiana and the other in Hammond, Indiana).

According to the complaint, Mattingly owned a night club named “The Rustic Frog” in New Albany, Indiana for many years. Sometime in November 2008, Mattingly converted the club into a strip club and began operating the club under the name II HORSESHOES GENTLEMEN’S CLUB. (Click here for a background article on controversy surrounding the club’s opening). In addition to the HORSESHOES name, the club purportedly uses a similar type of horseshoe logo as that used by Harrah’s (the low quality pictures can be viewed in the complaint – I was unable to find any online pictures of the logo Mattingly supposedly uses). Mattingly’s club is only 8 miles away from Harrah’s Elizabeth, Indiana location and supposedly on the major highway that leads from New Albany to the casino.

Harrah’s causes of action are for federal trademark infringement under 15 U.S.C. §1114, federal unfair competition under 15 U.S.C. §1125(a), federal trademark dilution under 15 U.S.C. §1125(c), common law trademark infringement and unfair competition, and trademark dilution under Indiana law (Ind. Code §24-2-1-13.5).

The Famous Million Dollar Display at Binion's Horseshoe
(previously purchased by a collector in 2000 but brought back in 2008)

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