Show me the Money! You are your licensee’s Keeper: Ledesma v. Marriott Int’l, Inc., Starwood Hotels & Resort Worldwide, LLC, 2020 WL 6747005 (November 16, 2020). By James Michael Faier, M.P.P., M.B.A., J.D. (USPTO Regn. No. 56731)
The United States District Court for the Northern District of Illinois correctly denied Marriott’s Motion for Summary Judgment in the above case. In this case, Ledesma travelled to India. He signed up for a hotel room at the Westin in Chennai, India. While on the premises Ledesma was hurt when the elevator dropped with him in it. He sued Marriott and Starwood. Marriott and Starwood made a Motion for Summary Judgment arguing that they did not own the hotel. The Court found that Marriott / Starwood had the duty to prove that it did not own the property. The Court found that the affidavit evidence they provided did not prove that. On a larger level, we have ask ourselves whether the brands we patronize should carry responsibility when a licensee fails to provide a service that we reasonably have paid to receive. The record in the case shows that Marriott / Starwood carried the Indian hotel on its website and that customers would get Marriott / Starwood loyalty points. Marriott / Starwood would be hard pressed to argue that they have no obligation to police the activities of a hotel on its website. The lessen to all of us is that a brand or trademark is a promise to customers that the owner will police those using the mark particularly we receive some remuneration. I was surprised that that counsel for Marriott / Starwood tendered an affidavit on ownership based on information and belief rather than hard facts. A lesson hard won is that you only have one chance to give the Court an impression that you are a precise and careful litigator.