The decision of the US Trademark Trial & Appeal Board is understandable. The Hilton hotel has the appearance one would expect from a large hotel: straightforward and not particularly distinctive in terms of its shape. This is, of course, different for the Hard Rock hotel with its guitar-shaped design. I’m not sure if it’s comfortable to sleep in the top part, but its shape is certainly eye-catching and distinctive. Only signs with distinctive character are eligible for trademark registration.

Guitar Hard Rock Hilton
Left the rejected registration of Hilton; on the right, the accepted registration of Seminole Hard Rock hotel


Six beams of light

However, it’s not all good news for the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel. A second trademark registration of the hotel is currently not being accepted by the Trademark Office. It turns out that the guitar hotel has another spectacular visual effect. By means of six beams of light emanating from the top of the building, the guitar body suddenly appears to have six strings at night. Seminole is also attempting to register this visual effect as a separate trademark.


Lack of distinctiveness

The following description is included in the application: “The mark consists of six parallel, vertical beams of light representing guitar strings, extending 20,000 feet in the air from the top of a guitar-shaped building.” However, the Trademark Office is not impressed and currently does not allow this registration. The office considers those beams of light to lack distinctiveness. There are so many hotels that use beams of light, so it is nothing extraordinary, according to the office.

Jumping to conclusions?

Hmmmm, that feels a bit hasty to me. It’s not just six beams of light; it’s six parallel beams of light that form the guitar strings. I would argue that this is quite distinctive. But the hotel will probably not give up. Now that the guitar body has been claimed, they will do everything they can to protect those illuminated strings as well. Because without strings, there is no music!

Bas Kist