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Chris Jones

Vegas Board Votes on Amending Trademark Agreement

6 October 2005

LAS VEGAS -- Local tourism leaders next week will get the chance to slam shut a controversial -- and expensive -- loophole surrounding control of the popular "What happens here, stays here" slogan.

On Tuesday, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority's 14-member board will vote to amend a November 2004 agreement between authority President Rossi Ralenkotter and R&R Partners, the Las Vegas-based advertising agency that developed the destination's popular marketing campaign nearly three years ago.

Ralenkotter ceded control of the slogan to R&R boss Billy Vassiliadis, both men said, to strengthen their organizations' shared legal interests in an ongoing trademark infringement case against Dorothy Tovar, a California woman who sells products that say "What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."

Still, several board members and local media questioned the deal, openly wondering if Ralenkotter had unwittingly given R&R the rights to cash in on T-shirts or other goods tied to the popular phrase.

Last year's contract specified that R&R would grant the authority a "non-exclusive license" to use the trademarks, trademarks the authority popularized through its annual $80 million, room tax-funded advertising efforts.

If approved Tuesday, the new amendment would make the authority the exclusive licensee to the trademarks, Luke Puschnig, the authority's legal counsel, said Wednesday.

"This would prevent R&R Partners from using the mark for anything other than the (authority's) advertising campaign," Puschnig said.

The authority came under scrutiny in late June when it was revealed that Ralenkotter sold the trademarks for the "What happens here, stays here" slogan, as well as the lesser-known "We work as hard as we play," for $1 to R&R Partners.

The authority in late June hired the San Francisco office of Morrison & Foerster, a prominent international law firm, to investigate the deal, as well as assist the authority in the Tovar case, which appears headed to trial in Reno.

In August, Morrison & Foerster attorneys told the board they found no evidence of willful wrongdoing related to the $1 sale.

Still, the firm recommended that the authority make several changes to its board policies, including drafting bylaws that would require it to henceforth maintain ownership of its intellectual property.

Vegas Board Votes on Amending Trademark Agreement is republished from