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Hotel Morgan says Hotel Morgantown stole its name

By Vicki Smith

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. (AP) -- The historic Hotel Morgan has been a fixture in downtown Morgantown for 86 years, but its lawyers say it's now being confused with a less prestigious establishment that has ripped off its name.

The Hotel Morgan filed a trademark infringement and false advertising lawsuit Thursday in U.S. District Court in Clarksburg against the owners of the similar-sounding Hotel Morgantown.

But owner Himanshu Bhatia said Friday there are no legal grounds to sue him, and he contends the full names of the properties aren't very similar. The downtown property now clearly labeled and marketed as the Clarion Hotel Morgan, he said, can't possibly be confused with his Hotel Morgantown & Conference Center near Star City.

"Morgantown is a town. It's not a proprietary name," Bhatia said. "We don't have any guests calling us saying, `Are you Hotel Morgan?' And if they do, we say we are not....  We are not confusing any customer."

Bhatia lives in New York City but has had businesses and friends in Morgantown for many years, including the Morgantown Motel on U.S. 119.

"Nobody's ever challenged that one," he said. "I'm in love with Morgantown, so what's wrong with it?"

Since 1925, the Hotel Morgan on High Street has hosted major events, from weddings, proms and conferences to politicians' election-night celebrations.

In the complaint, attorney Charles Wise says the Hotel Morgan underwent a major and costly renovation in 1999, and remains a brand that is "distinctive, strong and famous."

Last year, however, Bhatia and his company, Sahaj Morgantown LLC, reopened a former Quality Inn & Suites about a mile and a half away, calling it the Hotel Morgantown and buying a domain name.

The lawsuit claims that has created confusion among the public, and that the use of the name irreparably harms the reputation of the Hotel Morgan.

The Hotel Morgan now accuses Bhatia of "intentional, willful and malicious intent to trade on the good will associated with the plaintiff, to the great and irreparable injury of plaintiff."

Its conduct, the lawsuit says, "tarnishes and degrades the positive associations and prestigious connotations" of the Hotel Morgan.

The lawsuit alleges trademark infringement, trademark dilution, unfair competition and cyber-piracy.

It asks Judge Irene Keeley to order Bhatia to stop using the name Hotel Morgantown, and to remove it from all websites, Internet tools and marketing materials, including signs, flyers, menus, room keys and napkins.

The lawsuit also asks Keeley to order the hotel to change its name to one that is unlikely to confuse consumers. It says the new name should not include the words "hotel," "Morgan" and "Morgantown."

The complaint further demands that Bhatia be required to sell his domain name to the Hotel Morgan for $10, cancel its name with the Secretary of State's Office, and pay unspecified damages.

 

 


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