Sunday, August 27, 2017

The Last Resort: Eagles Sue the Hotel California for Trademark Infringement

Hotel in Mexico Alleged to be Profiting from Rock Classic

Well, I heard some people talkin' just the other day about the recent Classic East concert by 1970s music acts at Citi Field headlined by the Eagles (Steely Dan and Fleetwood Mac were among the others), one of the most successful bands ever based on album sales and tour receipts. They have sold over 100 million units, and a Billboard article suggests that "it is safe to assume that the Eagles have grossed over $1 billion and been seen by 10 million fans worldwide." 

You could say life's been good to the band members, but they have worked to establish the Eagles as a major success in the music industry over the past several decades. They view their success as hard earned, so it is no surprise that the band filed a trademark infringement lawsuit against the owners of a Mexican hotel named Hotel California, which just happens to be the title of the band's classic hit album and song. Both have been a huge part of the band's success; the song won the Grammy for Record of the Year (the album lost out to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours), and the album is number 18 on the list of all-time best selling albums as certified by the Recording Industry Association of America. 

The lawsuit was filed in May and is currently pending in federal court in the city of Los Angeles. So what is it really all about? The heart of the matter is whether the hotel is infringing the trademark rights that the Eagles claim to have in the words "Hotel California" as they relate to the sale of merchandise using those words. What it all comes down to is the question of whether they have the sole, legally enforceable right to commercially exploit the value that the iconic, signature song Hotel California brings to merchandise that the band claims it has been selling for a long time.