Seibu Group’s Prince Hotels and Resorts, one of the nation’s largest hotel leisure businesses, is planning to file a lawsuit against the owner of the Tabata Prince Hotel, which opened last month in Tokyo, for infringement of the trademark law.
Seibu Group owns trademark rights for “Prince Hotel” and issued a warning on its website on April 13 stating: “Please be warned that the recently opened hotel named Tabata Prince Hotel in Tokyo’s Kita Ward is neither capitally related nor affiliated to the Seibu Group’s hotels.”
The Tabata Prince Hotel (Prince Tabata Hotel in English) opened on April 1, and has rooms priced between ¥5,500 and ¥15,000 with a modest and casual atmosphere that contrasts strongly with the Seibu Group’s luxurious high-end Prince Hotels. After the hotel began operations, Seibu Group received a number of inquiries and complaints from customers.
“Some customers who thought the Tabata Prince Hotel was a new Seibu Group Prince Hotel complained that it was completely different from our other hotels, and others asked us to take action to prevent further misconceptions in the future,” said Seibu Group spokesman Yosuke Kondo.
After hearing rumors about the imminent opening of the hotel, Kondo said that Seibu Group sent a warning to the Tabata Prince Hotel in March asking them to refrain from using the name “Prince Hotel,” but that they have yet to receive a response.
Eikan Otomo, president of the Tabata Prince Hotel, said that he did not intend to infringe on Seibu’s trademark right, adding that he is now applying to obtain a trademark right for “the Tabata Prince Hotel.”
“I named the hotel ‘prince’ after my old last name, ‘Oh,’ which means a king or prince in English,” Otomo said. “Given that we set the price really cheap and the building outlook is quite different from Seibu’s Prince Hotels, it’s obvious it’s a different business.”
Seibu Group’s Prince Hotel chain has held trademark rights to the “Prince Hotel” name since 1992 — the year that trademark law was first enacted for service marks used by venues such as hotels and restaurants, according to Kiyoshi Kurihara, a patent attorney.
Kurihara pointed out that there are more than 20 hotels in Japan that are named “Prince Hotel” but are unrelated to the Seibu Group, such as the Atagawa Prince Hotel in Shizuoka Prefecture and the Sugadaira Prince Hotel in Nagano Prefecture. But they are able to keep their names because the law states that any service marks in use before its enactment can continue to be used even after others register the same or similar names.
“The Tabata hotel naming is absolutely a case of infringement under the trademark law, and it has to stop using that misleading name,” said Kurihara.