Emerson at odds with nightclub over name

by Evan Sporer / Beacon Staff • March 21, 2013

The Emerson Theatre opened in January
via Patricia Johnson
The Emerson Theatre opened in January
via Patricia Johnson

Its own slogan proclaims itself to be “Hollywood’s sexiest scandal.” But now, a speakeasy located less than two miles away from Emerson’s forthcoming Los Angeles campus has caught the attention of college administrators from all the way across the country.

The Emerson Theatre, a nightclub on Hollywood Boulevard that opened in January, may be infringing on a trademark the college has held since 2007 to use the name “Emerson.” Andrew Tiedemann, vice president of public affairs, said the college is currently in discussions with the club’s owners to see if they would consider changing its name. 

The trademark that Emerson filed in 2007 with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) gives the college, “the exclusive right to use the Emerson and Emerson College” names under certain circumstances, according to an email to the Beacon from Betsy Facher Rauch, Emerson’s general counsel. 

The college has the exclusive rights to use the the word “Emerson,” said the PTO website. Regarding educational and entertainment services, Emerson retains those rights. 

“We can’t trademark all uses of the name Emerson, but what we have trademarked is Emerson College, and we’ve also trademarked the word Emerson when it’s used in relation to an educational program,” Tiedemann said. “The use of ‘theatre,’ because we are a theater education school among other things, falls into a bit of a gray area for us.”

The club’s proximity to Emerson’s upcoming Los Angeles campus is also a factor in the desired name change, Tiedemann said. 

It is not the nature of the business done by the Emerson Theatre that prompted the college to ask it to consider changing its name. 

“It’s a nightclub; it’s a legal business. I don’t think that’s the issue at all,” he said. “If it was the Emerson Theatre and they were serving spaghetti and pasta and pizza, we would still have the same issue.” 

The Emerson Theatre is one of 13 nightclubs owned by SBE on the West Coast, a company that also operates in New York City, Miami, and Houston, according to SBE’s website. 

SBE declined to comment on the naming dispute.

There are currently 135 live trademarks that include the word “Emerson,” including two filed by the college, and one filed by the Emerson Theatre on Dec. 6, 2012, according to the PTO’s website. 

The trademark filed by the Emerson Theatre is under the category restaurants, nightclubs, and bar services, and includes its logo design, which incorporates “two broken horizontal lines separated by the stylized wording ‘THE EMERSON THEATRE’ which includes dots in the lettering.”

The PTO website also makes a point to state that the word “theatre” is not included in the trademark. 

This isn’t the first speedbump Emerson has experienced during its Los Angeles construction. The entire operation was delayed a full year after East West Studios, a recording studio, filed a lawsuit in 2010 against the college, claiming construction noises would interrupt its work. The suit was dismissed in July 2011.

Tiedemann said he did not know how the Emerson Theatre chose its name, or if its proximity to Emerson’s new Hollywood center factored into its decision.