The Regional Court of Karlsruhe decided on 29th July 2015 that the use of the original Hard Rock Cafe logo for the operation and promotion of a bogus restaurant in Heidelberg, Germany, under the identical name and logo of the Hard Rock Cafe group, violates German unfair competition law. The Court found the use of the logo to be misleading for consumers and ordered the Heidelberg restaurant to only use the logo in connection with a clarification that shows very clearly that the restaurant in Heidelberg does not belong to the official chain and has no connection to it whatsoever. The Heidelberg restaurant has also been found liable to pay damages to the Hard Rock Cafe group, the amount of which still needs to be determined.
The German Federal Supreme Court had already decided in August 2013 that the sale of unofficial Hard Rock Cafe merchandise in the restaurant in Heidelberg violated the Hard Rock Cafe group trade mark rights and was in breach of German unfair competition law. The Supreme Court ruled that the Heidelberg restaurant was liable for damages for having sold merchandise under the Hard Rock Cafe name and prohibited those sales immediately. The Supreme Court then 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 violated German law. The current decision has now affirmed this.
This 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 Court in Karlsruhe found however that the confusion that the use of the logos was causing amongst customers, who were being duped into thinking they were visiting an official Hard Rock Cafe, was to be given more weight than the fact the restaurant in Heidelberg had been operating in Germany before the official Hard Rock Cafe Group. The Heidelberg restaurant was therefore ordered to clarify their non-relationship to the official and highly reputed Hard Rock Cafe chain so to exclude that customers are continuously misled.