Hotel chains appear determined to own single-letter trademarks anymore. Yes, the lodging industry appears headed toward serving up a regular bowl of alphabet soup you might say. Do you recognize any of these single letter hotel marks?

Mark Image  Mark Image 

Mark ImageU Hotels & Resorts - Luxury Hotels in ThailandFree Clipart Picture of a Yellow Question Mark with a Black Outline

In case you’re wondering, the inspiration for this post came from Holiday Inn’s re-branding effort with the above H logo. A three-year re-branding effort that apparently started back in 2007, but has only recently shown itself in suburban Minneapolis. It got me thinking how Holiday Inn must have had single-letter trademark envy to move in this truncated direction because when I think of single-letter hotel brands, only W comes to mind (at least before starting this post).

W Hotels has done a very nice job with its branding, it seems to me, especially with the recent remodel of historic Foshay Tower in downtown Minneapolis. It’s interesting, however, that W seems unmoved by a host of others using and registering “its letter” in connection with other hotels, here (Wyndham), here (Woodfin), here (Chickasaw Nation), here (The Westbury in London), here (Watermark), and here (Willard), especially since Starwood, the owner of W Hotels, owns the letter W as a trademark without any type or style limitations. Perhaps W is unmoved because at least some of these appear to predate W, begging the question of how Starwood was able to register the letter W with no type or style limitations in the first place.

In addition, Holiday Inn is certainly not the only or the first with a hotel or plans for a hotel to think about truncating its name to the single letter H in a trademark and logo, see here (Hilton), here (Hersha), here (Hansa Urbana), here (Hearthstone), here (Haute), here (Heritage), and here (Heidi Klum).

Turns out, lots of other hotels have truncated their names into single-letter logos too, which makes me wonder about what the scope of their respective rights might be.

Having said that, some letters may not be well-suited for hotel branding at all. Given that hotels are routinely graded (typically on number of stars), I haven’t checked, but I assume the letters B through D and F are available, for obvious branding reasons. And, sorry Gatorade, flanking the flunking or failing letter F, at least in Malasia, G appears taken, and Westin recently grabbed a stylized E, with Carlisle taking an interest in E too, not to mention Embassy Suites and its E.

As you may have guessed, Renaissance is not the only R out there in the hotel world (here (Ramada), here (Ravel), here (Regent), here (Registry), and here (Rockresorts)), but U Hotels & Resorts appears to be surprisingly unique, as does O Hotel. So, here we may have identified at least one caution for Oprah to consider carefully, down the road, in the event she sets her sights on extending her brand of O into the hotel industry.

Last, but certainly not least, as Gatorade must have learned when it truncated to G, blogged previously here, it is not easy to own a single-letter as a trademark, at least one that enjoys any meaningful scope.

  • Sorry, the letter D is taken…by D Pet Hotels Hollywood, a luxury resort and spa for the Distinguished/Dog. The one letter brand has gone to the dogs.

  • From a trademark prosecution perspective, I find these marks to pose major challenges. Think about it – Westin, Warwick and W all coexist; industry custom is to abbreviate the hotel name to an initial for logo purposes – can each one register? Not likely – but clients will want to, and that may be impossible. Practically speaking, is there confusion? Could consumers mistakenly believe that W is related to either Westin or Warwick? Not to mention the disputes that arise between hotel single-initial trademark owners and non-hotel trademark owners . . . All I can say is trendy branding schemes such as those you discuss are often at odds with trademark registration and enforcement.

  • Duets
    I am one of designers that played a key role in the Renaissance Hotels rebranding efforts. I think your post brings up an interesting point. However, I dont think that all Hotels strive to brand them selves with a single-letter.
    The new Renaissance visual system relies on the use of a new element called the paraph. It is derived from the icon within the Renaissance brand logo but is never shown in its entirety. They also use textures or patterns that exist within objects around the property or unique to the Hotels location. Every thing about the system is proprietary. And in my opinion makes them stand out from the alphabet soup. But how about you and your readers be the judge.