After years of litigation Hogan Lovells achieved a ground-breaking settlement for the Hard Rock Group.

A restaurant with the same name which operated without a license in Heidelberg will cease to operate at the end of February. In return the Hard Rock Group waives part of the damage claims that were granted to it.

Background:  The settlement was preceded by years of litigation in which more than one obstacle had to be overcome (see our earlier report). On the one hand the Heidelberg restaurant had been opened significantly earlier than the first Hard Rock Cafe of the Hard Rock Group in Germany and has now existed for more than 35 years. On the other hand the Heidelberg restaurant claimed that the Hard Rock Group already knew of the Heidelberg Cafe since their entry into the German market and had even withdrawn an earlier court proceeding initiated against the Heidelberg restaurant years before.

Despite these hurdles the German Federal Supreme Court had already decided in a landmark decision in 2013 that the restaurant in Heidelberg violated the trademark rights of the Hard Rock Group with the distribution of “Hard Rock Cafe”-merchandising articles and ordered the operators of the restaurant to pay damages. Most recently the Regional Court of Karlsruhe ordered in an additional judgment, that the Heidelberg restaurant had to indicate that the restaurant does not belong to the Hard Rock Group and is not licensed by it when using the Hard Rock Cafe logo in the restaurant or online. The Court decided that a use of the logo without such an indicator would illegally mislead consumers. It again obliged the Heidelberg restaurant to pay damages.

Morten Petersenn, the lead partner acting for Hard Rock Group commented on the settlement:

We are delighted that we have finally been able to impel the operators of the restaurant to cease operation. Heidelberg is a tourist centre. Many visitors mistakenly believed they were visiting an original Hard Rock Cafe when visiting the Heidelberg restaurant. With the result achieved we can now prevent further confusion and protect the good reputation of our client. This case demonstrates that it is always beneficial to fight activity which misleads consumers as well as trademark infringements – even if there is already decades of history between the parties.