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Spearmint Rhino sues competitor over ‘South Park’-inspired name

Updated April 10, 2024 - 6:46 pm

A pair of Las Vegas strip clubs are in court to decide whether one’s parody-based name is too close to the other’s.

Spearmint Rhino, a chain of adult entertainment clubs since 1992 with a Las Vegas location near the Strip, alleges that competitor Peppermint Hippo infringes on the club’s trademark because the names are “confusingly similar,” according to a complaint filed in the U.S. District Court of Nevada.

Peppermint Hippo opened its Las Vegas location in April 2022. Founder and CEO Alan Chang told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that year that he named the club after a fictional one in the animated comedy show “South Park.”

“We just thought it was hilarious,” Chang said at the time, adding he figured if he ever opened a club of his own, “that’s what I’ll call it.”

Both names are registered trademarks, according to the lawsuit. But Spearmint Rhino argues that Chang chose that designation “with the intention to create an association with the Spearmint Rhino marks,” according to the December 2023 complaint.

Chang worked for Spearmint Rhino between 2007 and 2014, according to Spearmint Rhino’s complaint.

Lawyers for the club, located on Highland Drive near Desert Inn Road, say that confusing the names in online search engine queries benefited Chang’s club on Las Vegas Boulevard north of The Strat.

“(Peppermint Hippo and Chang) have unfairly benefited through their acts of trademark infringement including by redirecting consumer traffic to Defendant’s location” and by benefiting from their reputation and substantial advertising, according to the complaint.

Lawyers for Peppermint Hippo deny the allegations in a Jan. 31 court filing. Both parties are seeking a jury trial, according to court records. Spearmint Rhino seeks a judgment that cancels Peppermint Hippo’s trademark registration and awards the company damages based on profits earned from Peppermint Hippo’s acts.

“The Strip club war is on! We won’t let this ridiculous lawsuit discredit us,” Chang said in a statement. “In the wild, hippos and rhinos co-exist. Why not Vegas?”

Lawyers for Spearmint Rhino did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

Other Peppermint Hippo locations include Reno; Little Rock, Arkansas; and Akron, Ohio. Other Spearmint Rhino locations include Dallas, Los Angeles, West Palm Beach, Florida; and four locations in the United Kingdom and Australia.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on X.

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