Herods Hotel and Harrods of Knightsbridge – Coincidence or Dilution and Passing Off?

harrods awning       herods downloadAfter suffering from an overload of aggravation, in making near impossible deadlines for demanding customers, I took off 36 hours, and holidayed in Tel Aviv – doing what veteran patent attorney Simon Kay would call having a highly recommended one night stand with one’s wife. We stayed at the luxury Herods Hotel in Tel Aviv, which is an over-priced makeover of the Leonardo Plaza Hotel. It is one of a chain of premium hotels in the Fattal Group which includes a hotel at the Dead Sea, and one in Eilat. We enjoyed the fantastic breakfast, seawater swimming pool beach front and friendly staff.

Herod the Great, King of Judea, was a colossal builder, who built the port of Caesarea, the Mausoleum of the Patriarchs in Hebron, did major renovations of the Second Temple, including, arguably, the Western (Wailing) Wall remnant, and constructed luxury palaces under difficult conditions at Herodian, Jericho and Masada. Herod also murdered his father-in-law, various wives and children, making Henry VIII’s behaviour seem normative, and raises associations of unfriendliness to couples and children that I suspect the Fattal chain (Fattal not fatal) might be less than interested in recalling. The most famous hotel in Jerusalem is the King David, and there is also a King Solomon. So why not a Herod or King Herod? No reason. In English, a hotel belonging to Herod, would be called Herod’s Hotel with an ‘apostrophe S’. I am not an expert on American syntax and grammar, but I believe that in Americanese, the same rules apply.  The Tel Aviv beachfront hotel is, however, not called the King Herod Hotel, or Herod’s Hotel. It is called the Herods Hotel. In London, there is a rather famous luxury department store called Harrods. The Harrods’ Livery is green. Often, a rather yellowish green, but on the awnings and other features, it is a racing green more reminiscent of the Mini Cooper than of the vintage Rolls Royce parked outside the Tel Aviv Herods Hotel which extensively uses the same shade of racing green. Furthermore, Although Harrods is often written in a distinctive joined up script, it is sometimes written in a serif font in capitals, and that is how it is written vertically on the corner of the famous store. The name Herods Hotel is written in a similar font. The Tel Aviv Herods Hotel was formerly the Leonardo Plaza Hotel Tel Aviv, and is a rather square, not particularly distinctive building.

In the ‘Eilat Herods Palace Hotel’ the ‘apostrophe S’ is likewise missing. More obviously noticeable is the distinctive architecture of the Eilat hotel which was built as the Herods Palace Hotel. Herods Elat There is nothing reminiscent of the huge rectangular building blocks, laid in horizontal courses with flat projecting central bosses surrounded by narrow, shallow marginal drafts providing a finely chiseled, frame-like effect that is instantly recognizable as Herodian. There are, however, pointed turrets and other architectural features that seem to be rather distinctively Harrodian (of Knightsbridge).

Herods Dead SeaThe logo of Herods Dead Sea is in a dirty yellow that is similar to the colour of the font used in Harrods’ sign. The background of the logo in the Tel Aviv Herods Hotel is in a racing green that is similar to Harrod’s awnings.

Under the Paris Convention, well-known marks don’t need to be registered to file suit for passing off, dilution, and the like. Although not in the same class, luxury goods and luxury hotels are both aimed at the luxury end of the market, and there does, therefore, seem to be a case of dilution, and possibly confusion. On the other hand, nothing is created in a vacuum, and some level of influence and suggestiveness might be considered legitimate.

Harrods does not have a retail outlet in Israel, and abandoned their Israel mark for their logo, but they do have trademarks for Harrods Online and Harrods Direct, indicative that they do provide goods to Israelis over the Internet. Israelis are notoriously bad at spelling, and English names like George when spelled in English on Israeli road signs  are rarely spelled correctly. A double RR or an E instead of an A are unlikely to be considered as significant. The mark would be pronounced almost the same. The hotel does not spell Herods in Hebrew, where Herod is pronounced Hordus, reflecting the Roman influence.

The original trademarks for the hotel were for Herod’s with an apostrophe S, but their more recent marks are for Herods without the apostrophe. I think that were the hotel to have chosen a different colour scheme to the racing green, I would be less bothered, but that, together with the missing apostrophe seems to me to be at the very least dilution of the famous British mark.

Then again, I studied engineering at Imperial College in South Kensington, just down the road from Harrods of Knightsbridge. When, at age eleven, I went to Carmel College, my school uniform was purchased there. It could be that my sensitivity to the similarities is influenced by my background, and the average tourist, whether foreign or Israeli, might not see the similarity. Furthermore, as an IP professional and blogger (critic), I am perhaps not the typical consumer, and maybe I see infringement where the average holiday-maker simply sees a hotel?

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