Morgantown hotel owner denies wrongdoing in court filing

CLARKSBURG - The owner of an upstart Morgantown hotel, who is being sued by a downtown hotel in federal court, denies he has done anything wrong, according to a court filing last week. Defendants Sahaj Morgantown LLC and Himanshu Bhatin filed an answer to The Hotel Morgan Company LLC's April 26 complaint in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia Wednesday. The Hotel Morgan, now called the Historic Clarion Hotel Morgan, is located on High Street and has been open since 1925. In April, it sued the owners of the Hotel Morgantown and Conference Center, which opened on Saratoga Avenue near Star City in 2011, for trademark infringement, false designation of origin and false advertising under federal law. In addition, it sued for related claims of common law trademark infringement, unfair competition, unjust enrichment, dilution, and breach of fiduciary duty under West Virginia law. It argues that the Hotel Morgantown and Conference Center has stolen its name and is hurting its reputation. Bhatin, Hotel Morgantown's owner, contends in his 11-page filing that he is not guilty of "any action or inaction proximately causing or contributing to the damages allegedly sustained by the plaintiff." He also denies that the name "Hotel Morgan" is a famous mark; that the Hotel Morgan Company LLC is the owner of a common law trademark for the term; and that the plaintiff has operated "continuously" as the Hotel Morgan. The defendants, in their answer, ask that the federal court deny each of the plaintiff's requests for relief, dismiss the suit with prejudice, and award the defendants their costs and expenses incurred in the defense of the action. In an interview with The Associated Press in April, Bhatin said he doesn't think the full names of the two hotels are very similar at all. "Morgantown is a town. It's not a proprietary name," he told the AP. "We don't have any guests calling us saying, 'Are you Hotel Morgan?' And if they do, we say we are not. "We are not confusing any customer," he said. The Hotel Morgan, in their complaint, argue otherwise. "Upon information and belief, defendants were aware of plaintiff's Hotel Morgan service mark and intended to derive a benefit from, and trade off of, plaintiff's reputation and considerable goodwill by its adoption and use of the name Hotel Morgantown," Charles C. Wise III, of Morgantown law firm Bowles Rice McDavid Graff and Love LLP, wrote for the Hotel Morgan. "Defendants' use of the Hotel Morgantown name creates an impermissibly high likelihood of confusion in the minds of the consuming public as to the source of the goods and services." Ryan P. Simonton and Teresa J. Dumire of Morgantown law firm Kay Casto and Chaney PLLC are representing the defendants.

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