Wednesday, Dec. 23, 2009 | 2:05 a.m.
The owner of the Las Vegas Review-Journal sued three companies this month, charging they’re infringing on its trademarked term “The Best of Las Vegas.”
The lawsuits say the “Best of Las Vegas” phrase covers the newspaper’s section featuring consumer preferences and recommendations regarding people, places, goods, services, restaurants, entertainment, arts, sports and recreation in the Las Vegas area.
The trademarks also cover the newspaper’s Web site and paper award certificates provided to Best of Las Vegas winners, the lawsuits say.
Suits were filed by Stephens Media LLC against:
• Gault Millau Inc., a company based in California.
• US Commerce Association (USCA), a company based in the Washington, D.C., area, and USCA official Kelly McCartney.
• CitiHealth LLC, a Nevada limited liability company.
The suit against Gault Millau claims the company runs a travel Web site called gayot.com that includes “The Best of Las Vegas Top Restaurants Hotels Travel Guide.”
Lawyers for Stephens complained in the lawsuit that gayot.com’s use of the R-J’s trademarked phrase “is likely to cause confusion, cause mistake or deceive consumers and the public with respect to the services offered in commerce by Gault Millau.”
In its lawsuit against USCA and McCartney, Stephens complained the defendants have been selling “award” plaques and trophies to small businesses by sending the businesses e-mails saying the businesses have won a “Best of Las Vegas Award” from USCA.
Stephens alleges small businesses desiring their award must pay $80 for an award plaque or $180 for a trophy, and the companies can publish press releases announcing they are winners of USCA awards.
“USCA is not actually a legitimate business or commerce association, but is merely a scheme directed and effectuated by McCartney to sell ‘award’ plaques and trophies to unsuspecting small businesses,” Stephens’ lawsuit charges.
Stephens’ lawsuit says USCA’s use of the “Best of Las Vegas” phrase “has damaged and will continue to damage the reputation and goodwill of Stephens.”
The suit against CitiHealth charges that in December 2008, the company published the January 2009 issue of “Healthy Living Las Vegas” and that the cover of the publication and its Web site included the phrase “Best of Las Vegas.”
“Consumers and the public will improperly conclude that Stephens sponsors and/or is affiliated with CitiHealth as a result of such consumers and the public observing the infringing mark on CitiHealth’s publications and CitiHealth’s Web site,” the lawsuit says.
Officials at Gault Millau and US Commerce Association could not be reached for comment on the allegations.
Ken Shepherd, publisher of Healthy Living, said the company was not aware of the Review-Journal’s “Best of Las Vegas” trademark when the January issue was published.
He said that after the magazine was published, the Review-Journal notified his company of the infringement and that CitiHealth then retrieved as many copies of the publication as it could find and removed them from circulation.
He said the “Best of Las Vegas” reference was removed from the Healthy
Living Web site.
Shepherd said that because of declining advertising revenue tied to the recession, the print edition of Healthy Living Las Vegas has been suspended, though its Web site remains active.
Stephens Media, in the meantime, continues to publish a similar magazine and Web site called “Las Vegas Health.”