Even so, the Eagles contend the Baja California establishment has been using the name to suggest a connection with the band for financial gain. The band filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles seeking a variety of damages and a halt to any infringement.
The lawsuit claimed the hotel sells merchandise — including T-shirts, posters, sweatshirts, bathrobes, key chains, playing cards, mugs, guitar picks and refrigerator magnets — featuring the band’s name and the cover art from its 1976 album “Hotel California,” on which the song appeared.
The band also contends that the hotel “actively encourage[s] consumers to believe that the hotel in Todos Santos is associated with the Eagles to further their sale” of these items by playing Eagles songs — particularly “Hotel California” — throughout its halls and in its lobby.
The hotel opened in 1950 and, according to the lawsuit, underwent several name and ownership changes. In 2001, Canadian couple Debbie and John Stewart purchased the hotel, restored its original name and “sought to revitalize the hotel and create a reputation for it, based at least partially on the hotel’s reputed, but false, connection to the Eagles,” the lawsuit stated.
Indeed, one Yelp review stated, “The famous song by the Eagles lured us here to the town of Todos Santos – about an hour’s drive away from Cabo San Lucas.”
The history page of the hotel’s website currently states that the Eagles never owned the hotel but notes many similarities the hotel shares with the lyrics of “Hotel California.”
It states, “Many … legends are less black and white and continue to fascinate the public. Although the present owners of the hotel do not have any affiliation with the Eagles, nor do they promote any association, many visitors are mesmerized by the ‘coincidences’ between the lyrics of the hit song and the physicality of the hotel and its surroundings.”
It goes on to list those “coincidences.”
One of these, for example, is that “Hotel California is accessed by driving down a long desert highway from either Los Cabos to the south or La Paz to the east.” The opening line of the song is “On a dark desert highway, cool wind in my hair.”
Another “coincidence” is that “The Mission Church of Pilar is located directly adjacent to the hotel and mission bells are heard daily.” One of the song’s lyrics is “I heard the mission bell.”
The hotel did not respond to Reuters’ request for comment on Tuesday.
Henley has previously stated that the song isn’t actually about a hotel or even California.
“It’s a journey from innocence to experience,” Henley told CBS News last December. “It’s not really about California; it’s about America. It’s about the dark underbelly of the American dream. It’s about excess, it’s about narcissism. It’s about the music business. … It can have a million interpretations.”
The now-deceased Glenn Frey, another member of the band who worked on the song’s lyrics, however, claimed the band members had no idea what their famous song meant.
“Everybody wants to know what that song was about, and we don’t know,” he told the BBC several years ago. “We decided to create something strange, just to see if we could do it. And then a lot was read into it — a lot more than probably exists.”
The band has long been fiercely protective of its intellectual property. Most notably, as reported in Billboard in 2011, it dropped a trademark infringement lawsuit against the American Eagle Foundation, a nonprofit organization “whose mission is to care for and protect the USA’ s living symbol of freedom, the Bald Eagle, and other birds of prey,” according to its website.
The band had created two companies — Eagles Ltd. and Eagles Recording Co. — and claimed the foundation infringed on their names. The band also took umbrage with the nonprofit’s website URL (www.eagles.org) and phone number (1-800-2-EAGLES.)
Previously, the band sued a Dallas restaurant called Hotel California Grill for trademark violation. The eatery reportedly changed its name.
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