Wynn trademark infringement lawsuit against Resorts World Las Vegas seems overblown By Howard Stutz, Executive Editor, CDC Gaming Reports January 1, 2019 at 8:00 pm For a nanosecond the other day, I thought Steve Wynn had returned to the helm of Wynn Resorts. How else can you explain the federal lawsuit the company filed just before Christmas against the developer of the $4 billion Resorts World Las Vegas project? Wynn, through his former Golden Nugget, Inc., and Mirage Resorts companies, had a history of filing litigation to stifle competition in Atlantic City, particularly against then-casino developer Donald Trump, at the time a major Wynn rival. Wynn sued Trump in 1991 over the hiring of Dennis Gomes, a Wynn executive who had taken the job of president at Trump Taj Mahal. A rendering of Resort World Las Vegas at a 2014 Nevada regulatory hearing. (Photo via Jeff Scheid/Las Vegas Review-Journal) But the disgraced ex-Wynn Resorts CEO has nothing to do with the five-count trademark infringement and unfair competition complaint brought against Resorts World. I’m not a legal expert – I’ll leave that to my retired district judge wife and third-year law student daughter – but the litigation seems slightly overblown. According to the suit, Wynn Resorts believes the under-construction Resorts World not only resembles Wynn Las Vegas and Encore, both of which are located just across the Las Vegas Strip, but is “misleading the public into falsely believing that it is affiliated with, sponsored by or associated with (the company), when it is not.” The filing included photographs of Wynn Las Vegas and Encore and a recent construction photo of Resorts World. Let’s be honest here: very few Las Vegas consumers will confuse a Wynn property with Resorts World Las Vegas. A May 2014 rendering of Resorts World Las Vegas – unveiled at a Nevada regulatory hearing – showed the project’s multiple hotel towers with curved facades and bronze glass. Recent construction photos reflect that design. Resorts World Las Vegas rendering The rest of Resorts World is expected to include low-rise buildings with distinct Asian characteristics, colors and themes. The property is also slated to include a large Chinese lantern-style feature atop one of the towers. That rendering has been in the public domain for five years. It was on display when Resorts World developer, Malaysia-based Genting Berhad, held a formal ground breaking in 2015, and when the company quietly began construction earlier this year on its 3,400-room initial phase. Situated as it is along the five-mile stretch of the Las Vegas Strip that already includes knock-offs of Paris, Venice, Rome, Egypt, New York City and several tropical islands, a slice of Asia blends into the scenery. Resorts World’s hotel towers are the focus of the lawsuit, which was first reported by the Las Vegas Review-Journal on Christmas Eve. Lawyers for the company wrote that Wynn has trademarked, and owns, the exclusive right in Nevada to utilize “architectural trade dress” in its buildings, which includes properties in Las Vegas and Macau as well as the under-construction Encore Boston Harbor in Everett, Massachusetts. “Defendant did not obtain plaintiff’s consent or authorization to use the Wynn Trade Dress or copyrighted architectural design in connection with resort, hotel, casino, entertainment, lounge, bar and restaurant services,” according to the suit. Under construction Resorts World Las Vegas from the Strip The filing cited media reports about the buildings’ similarities, including an excerpt from the Vital Vegas website. My friend Scott Roeben, publisher-editor of Vital Vegas, has tremendous Las Vegas insider sources, but I wouldn’t describe him as an architecture critic. Resorts World Las Vegas isn’t expected to open until late 2020 on the 87-acre site which once housed the Rat Pack-era Stardust. An expert in copyright law told the Review-Journal that building design can be protected, but the company must prove the design confuses the public. In light of that, the litigation seems like a stretch. Last I checked, “concave facades and curved, bronze glass, coupled with horizontal banding above and between the lines of glass panes” aren’t what attracts visitors to Las Vegas. In the filing, lawyers wrote that “millions of people from around the world have visited or stayed in Wynn and Encore properties, and the gross revenue generated … in Las Vegas alone to date exceeds $20 billion. As a result, Plaintiff’s Trade Dress has attained worldwide recognition and fame.” The legal action comes at a time when Wynn Resorts has troubles on other fronts. A Clark County, Nevada, judge may decide Thursday if a Massachusetts investigative report on the alleged sexual harassment allegations that drove Steve Wynn out of the company will remain sealed. The Massachusetts Gaming Commission wants to use the report to determine whether Wynn Resorts remains suitable to hold a license for the $2.6 billion Encore Boston Harbor resort, which is scheduled to open in June. Nevada gaming regulators are conducting a similar investigation into the company’s handling of the sexual misconduct charges. Resort World’s parent company is also facing legal scrutiny. In Malaysia, a financier tied to Genting through the sale of a power plant in 2017 has been connected to a multi-billion-dollar wealth fund scandal. Genting itself has not been implicated. In the U.S., a Genting subsidiary, separate from Resorts World, may not recover $426 million in financing lent to develop an Indian casino in Taunton, Massachusetts that was stalled by the U.S. Department of Interior. In Florida, November’s passage of Amendment 3, which hinders potential casino expansion, could end Resorts World’s seven-year effort to develop a gaming-resort destination along Biscayne Bay in downtown Miami. If anything, this lawsuit is a distraction, especially for Wynn. Howard Stutz is the executive editor of CDC Gaming Reports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @howardstutz on Twitter.