20 August 2007

Schrager and Marriott to create new boutique hotel group.

According to an article in this weekend's New York Times and by a blog by Marriott CEO Bill Marriott, the boutique hotel owner and luxury property developer Ian Schrager is set to partner with Marriott International.

"We're really excited about this because Ian obviously invented the boutique hotel concept and is certainly one of the most creative forces in the hotel industry today," said Marriott.

Schrager is to work with Marriott to design 100 boutique hotels for an as-yet-unnamed brand (we'd like this gig) in major cities across the United States, South America, Europe and Asia.

By tapping a range of renowned architects and designers, Schrager plans to give each property a distinct character (this is not unlike what he has done with the Gramercy Park Hotel and we hope he doesn't repeat what he did at the Hudson).

The hotels will be operated by Marriott and it hopes Schrager will lend what they describe as his "aesthetic ingenuity and cachet" with its own marketing and organizational muscle to gain entry into the boutique market, still regarded as the fastest-growing in the hotel industry.

DIFFUSION wonders whether the name, brand and experience will be distinctive enough to separate it from Marriott's other properties. Unlike Starwood's boutique W hotel group, which seem to have lost a lot of their shine and business, Schrager has continued to innovate with the properties like the recently opened Gramercy Park Hotel in New York.

Indeed, it seems was this hotel (see pic) that inspired Marriott to finally make the move into the boutique market.

Nestle not quite everyone's cup.

Australia's coffee industry is getting itself into a froth at international ffood company Nestle's attempts to trademark images of coffee in a coffee mug.

According to IP Australia, Nestle's application is for two images of coffee - a cup of black coffee in a white cup viewed from above and a red coffee mug, viewed from the front.

"We were convinced in the end and we were convinced by evidence of use that the company was able to supply, which demonstrated they had used that particular image repeatedly over a number of years, and that people in fact recognised it and associated it with their goods and services," the registrar for trademarks in Australia Ruth Mackie is reported to have said.

According to Mackie the image is visibly distinctive. In both cases, we assume the image is not generic as has been claimed by the Australian Coffee Association but is associated with Nestle's logo as in the Blend 43 pic above.

The normal approval process used by IP Australia involves an opposition period of three months, a review and then a final ruling made by the office.

What's most interesting is that opponents of the move seemed to have fogetten that Nestle has also been successful in registering the word "Decaf" in Australia without the level of opposition this latest application is enjoying.

A similar image dispute has opened between car maker Toyota and Qantas' Jetstar over the "jumping people" image. Toyota's claims copyright of the image through its long association with the O, What a Feeling campaign developed by Saatchi and Saatchi but there is no evidence that any trademark application has been lodgeed by Toyota or Jetstar for the image.

DIFFUSION assumes that any claim Toyota would make would rest on fair use evidence.