Lawsuit claims Platters group at the Rio is a counterfeit

A group promoting itself as The Platters in Las Vegas has been hit with a lawsuit charging it’s a counterfeit and is infringing on trademarks held by an original Platters member.

Herb Reed Enterprises LLC filed suit in federal court in Las Vegas on Wednesday against the company behind the Las Vegas group, Florida Entertainment Management Inc., and an official with that company, Larry Marshak.

The new case is just the latest in a number of complex trademark lawsuits filed around the country over the years over the rights to the name of The Platters, a 1950s group known for hits “The Great Pretender,” “Only You” and “Smoke Gets in Your Eyes.”

The suits are complex because as Platters members left the group and were replaced in the 1950s and 1960s, some assigned their ownership rights to various entities. However, some courts later determined some of these assignments were fraudulent.

Also, some Platters spinoff groups were created, further muddying the waters as to ownership of The Platters name.

Reed, of Arlington, Mass., is the founder, the sole surviving original member and the naming member of The Platters. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and since 1953 has earned royalties from the sale of Platters music.

Reed in recent years been trying to block what he calls unfair competition to his own shows around the country called “Herb Reed and The Platters” and “Herb Reed’s Platters.”

Reed noted in Wednesday’s lawsuit that a judge in Las Vegas last year confirmed his rights to The Platters mark are superior to those of others who have been claiming rights to the name.

Attorneys for Reed claim Florida Entertainment Management and Marshak are behind a counterfeit Platters group that’s been performing at the Crown Theater at the Rio hotel-casino in Las Vegas along with Cornell Gunter’s Coasters and the Marvelettes.

The lawsuit asks that the court require the group performing at the Rio to stop using The Platters name or to at least make it clear it’s a tribute group, as none of its members was an original member of The Platters.

“There is no public interest to be protected by allowing the defendants from continuing to defraud the public into believing that their copycat group is, or is associated with, the original Platters,” charges the lawsuit filed by attorneys at the Las Vegas office of the law firm Lewis and Roca LLP and Portsmouth, N.H., attorney Eric Sommers.

Wednesday’s lawsuit says the defendants have offered to label the group performing at the Rio as a “revue,” but Herb Reed Enterprises says that still wouldn’t make clear that the Rio group doesn’t include any original Platters.

“Defendants’ use of the mark is particularly egregious in light of the way they promote and market the group without any attempt to distinguish it from the original, going so far as using an album cover for the original group as part of their promotional literature,” the lawsuit says.

“Given the fame of the (Platters) mark, and the fact that recordings of The Platters’ hits are still being sold and played on the radio, in advertising and in motion pictures, any use by defendants must make clear to the public defendants’ lack of affiliation with the original group to avoid confusion,” the suit says.

This is at least the third Platters lawsuit filed in Las Vegas since November 2010.

In February, a judge issued an injunction sought by Reed against Henderson performer Monroe Powell and his company Monroe Powell’s Platters LLC.

In another case decided last year, Reed prevailed over Jean Bennett, who for a time in the 2000s was managing a Platters group at the Sahara. She had gained ownership to one of The Platters successor groups through her role as a secretary to Platters manager Buck Ram dating to 1954, lawsuit records show.

Marshak, in the meantime, maintains he has the right to use The Platters name since, at some point, he acquired rights to that name from the estate of Tony Williams, one of the five original Platters when it achieved its first success in 1954.

Marshak in May 2011 filed suit against Reed in federal court in Brooklyn, N.Y., to assert his rights to The Platters name, but his suit was dismissed last month.