South Beach’s Z Ocean and LIC’s Z NYC hotels call off logo feud

Hotel owners often try to lure guests with promises of peaceful sleep. But when it comes to New York City’s Z NYC Hotel and Miami’s Z Ocean Hotel, there just aren’t enough Z’s to go around.

That’s what Z Ocean’s owner, South Beach Resort Development, claimed in a lawsuit alleging customers would be confused by the hotels’ similar logos, both of which incorporate a stylized “Z.” South Beach Resort filed the suit this past June in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, accusing the newcomer, Z NYC, of trademark infringement and seeking at least $500,000 in damages.

This past Thursday, the parties reached a truce that will apparently force Z NYC, founded by limousine entrepreneur Henry Zilberman, to redesign its logo.

The 100-room Z NYC, at 11-01 43rd Avenue in Long Island City, began accepting reservations in June and held a grand opening ceremony in November that featured Mayor Michael Bloomberg touting the record-breaking number of new hotel rooms that opened in New York City in 2011.

South Beach Resort is also planning to expand into the New York market, and the company’s president, Louis Taic, told The Real Deal on Monday that it had acquired property in Manhattan to open a 150-room hotel. (Taic declined to disclose additional details but said he hoped to announce something by the end of this year.) In its suit, South Beach Resort claimed Z NYC’s “use of the nearly identical name will destroy these plans, because it would be impossible for people in the New York area to distinguish between the hotels and their services.”

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The company noted that the 79-room Z Ocean, at 1437 Collins Avenue in South Beach, is
similar in size to Z NYC and caters to the same clientele, many of whom travel frequently
between Miami and New York. South Beach Resort said it had been using its logo since April 2009, and had registered the design with the federal trademark office.

But Z NYC disputed the idea that the logos were almost identical, and argued that customers would not be confused since the hotels are not direct competitors, according to court papers. It, too, registered its trademark, court papers said.

Zilberman, in a response filed in court, argued that he was using the “Z” name as early as 2006, when he first decided to open the hotel to complement his Long Island City-based limousine business. A native of Israel, Zilberman “wanted a name that would represent him and his family heritage,” he said in court papers. The opening of the Z NYC was delayed by the credit crisis, he said.

A hearing was scheduled for Oct. 4, 2011 to decide on South Beach Resort’s request for a court order blocking Zilberman from using the logo, but a few days before the hearing, the parties told the court they were engaged in settlement talks.

Under the agreement, Z NYC will keep its name but design a new logo, according to Taic, who said the company has already approved the new design. Still, he stopped short of calling the settlement a win. “Nobody spends money in court to be victorious,” he said. “It’s not about that. It’s more about making sure there’s no confusion.”

Neither an attorney nor a representative for Z NYC immediately returned a request for comment.

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