Real-Life Copycat Lesson #1: Customer confusion among New York’s Public Theater and Public Hotel

16 April, 2019

In the summer of 2017, a swanky new 28-story hotel opened on the Lower East Side of Manhattan under the brand “PUBLIC,” with a boldfaced logo. In addition to boutique accommodations, the hotel also features a multi-media performance space called “PUBLIC ARTS”, designed for hosting film screenings, musical performances, theatrical cabaret, art exhibitions, and more. Half a mile away stands a famous cultural institution: the New York Shakespeare Festival – more commonly known as The Public Theater.
Instantly recognizable to New Yorkers and drama enthusiasts, the nonprofit theater has been in operation for more than sixty years, identifying itself with a boldfaced “PUBLIC” logo for roughly the last twenty.

Finding the hotel too close for comfort in many ways, The Public Theater brought a trademark infringement lawsuit on the basis that customers are likely to incorrectly assume that the hotel, and its PUBLIC ARTS performances, are associated with the theater.