Skift Take

IHG has petitioned to cancel Marriott's newest trademark, City Express by Marriott. IHG feels the name is just a little too close for comfort to its own popular hotel brand, Holiday Inn Express?

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) is opposing Marriott International’s bid to trademark City Express by Marriott.

Last month, IHG petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to cancel the trademark for Marriott’s newest hotel brand, filings show.

A source told Skift that IHG was concerned that the word “Express” in City Express, combined with the brand’s “affordable midscale” positioning, would be “confusingly similar” to Holiday Inn Express, which has a large U.S. footprint. The source is familiar with the IHG team’s thinking but asked for anonymity to discuss the group’s internal deliberations.

IHG and Marriott declined to comment for this story.

Holiday Inn Express is IHG’s biggest brand in terms of room count. As of the end of last year, the brand had 3,171 hotels open and a pipeline of 632 hotels. IHG has called it “the world’s most popular brand.”

Skift hasn’t seen IHG’s specific allegations, which were filed with the trademark office but haven’t been published.

Marriott’s Hotel Branding Timeline

Some backstory: In May 2023, Marriott officially closed its $100 million acquisition of the Mexico-headquartered City Express brand.

In November 2023, Marriott applied for a new trademark under the rebranded name “City Express by Marriott.” It began using that new brand to market the 150 hotels it had acquired in the Caribbean and Latin America.

Since November, IHG’s lawyers had sought continual extensions to keep their option open to oppose Marriott’s use of City Express by Marriott.

A May 13 filing shows IHG finally submitted its opposition to Marriott’s City Express trademark claim to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

On May 14, Marriott filed for a new trademark named “Project Mid-T by Marriott.” This application had the identical color scheme, font, and shape as the City Express by Marriott branding.

Marring a Brand Launch

On June 3, Marriott announced a new midscale conversion brand for North America to hundreds of developers and investors at the NYU International Hospitality Industry Investment Conference.

However, the hotel giant didn’t give an official name for the brand, temporarily calling it “Project Mid-T” instead.

The Project Mid-T branding has the same shape, color, and font as its City Express by Marriott brand, just different words.

What Next?

Marriott has until near the end of June to file an answer responding to IHG’s allegations. The next step would be for the Trademark Trial and Appeal Board to set a trial calendar.

Side note: IHG hasn’t opposed Marriott’s December trademark application for Four Points Express by Sheraton, a midscale brand that Marriott introduced last September to the European and Middle East regions. It also has the word “express” in its name.

Accommodations Sector Stock Index Performance Year-to-Date

What am I looking at? The performance of hotels and short-term rental sector stocks within the ST200. The index includes companies publicly traded across global markets, including international and regional hotel brands, hotel REITs, hotel management companies, alternative accommodations, and timeshares.

The Skift Travel 200 (ST200) combines the financial performance of nearly 200 travel companies worth more than a trillion dollars into a single number. See more hotels and short-term rental financial sector performance.

Read the full methodology behind the Skift Travel 200.

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Tags: business travel, city express, holiday inn express, hotel brands, ihg, intellectual property, litigation, marriott, Marriott International, per diem, trademarks

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