Part of the Expedia Group of travel companies, Hotels.com LP is one of the top online travel agency services offering accommodation worldwide, boasting over 325,000 commercial lodgings in 19,000+ locations.
Lodgings include B&B’s, hotels, condos, and other types of commercial lodging travelers can access one of the widest selections of accommodations on the net, encompassing both independent and major chain hotels as well as self-catering accommodation in thousands of properties worldwide.
Hotels.com is a big part of why the Expedia Group dominates the travel and tourism industry.
Hotels.com Domain and Trademark
The domain name hotels.com was registered in March of 1994, and if it isn’t renewed, it will expire in March of 2023. The hotels.com domain was only acquired by its’ current owners in 2002 for a sum of around $11 million.
While Hotels.com owns several trademarks that we will explore later on, Hotels.com lost its bid to trademark its own name when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled that the service mark was ”’too generic a term” to be legally reserved as a service mark.
The appeals court ruling backed the first decision, made by the Trademark appeal board, which decided in March 2008 to refuse Hotels.com’s application to trademark its name, also calling it a generic name.
Later in 2020, there was a ruling that appears to contradict this as the supreme court held that under the Lanham Act, the combination of an otherwise generic term and a top-level-domain, such as .com, can create a protectable mark if consumers recognize (consumer perception) the mark as a brand name, in the case of booking.com.
Read more on domain names and trademarks.
Hotels.com was founded 30 years ago in 1991 by David Litman and Robert Diener under the brand name hotel reservation network (HRN), initially providing hotel bookings via a toll-free landline number in the states.
HRN enjoyed relative success until it was acquired by USA networks inc (USAI) in 2001, concurring with the time they acquired a controlling interest in Expedia, another online booking company.
After HRN acquired the right to use the hotels.com name by buying the domain and acquiring the web address, they submitted a trademark application to the USPTO (Although this wasn’t granted due to the generic nature of the name). Nonetheless, they officially changed their name to hotels.com alongside launching the offline brand 1-800-2hotels.
From there, rapid expansion ensued, and in 2003 USAI was renamed InterActiveCorp. After restructuring, hotels.com became an operating company of Expedia inc.
Priding itself on being one of the best international hotel providers today – International growth since 2002 has included online services for North, Central, and South America, Europe, Japan, Australia, China, The Pacific Rim, The Middle East, and South Africa. Websites for Indonesia and Vietnam launched most recently in 2011, and customers in all countries can book online or by phoning one of the many multilingual call centers they provide.
In 2008 they were refused the right to trademark their own name ”hotels.com” due to concerns it would be ”too generic” and cause confusion with other website addresses that feature ”hotel” or ”hotels” in the web link; this refusal led them to launch a court appeal which they ultimately lost.
Hotels.com also offers a popular worldwide affiliate program via the Expedia affiliate network, which is loved by affiliate marketers everywhere, offering up to 6% commission per booking referred via the website, and affiliates working with hotels.com gain access to high converting affiliate tools such as deals widgets, banners, data feeds, a deep link generator and regular promotional incentives and voucher codes all in addition to an impressive rewards program.
In 2011, Hotels.com launched an application compatible with the iPad and also overhauled and updated their iPhone and Android apps.
Through consistent growth and partnerships, Hotels.com has dominated the travel market and is one of the most popular online hotel reservation services.
On December 1st, 2016, Hotels.com absorbed Venere.com (another company owned by Expedia). Hotels.com and the parent company, Expedia Group Inc, have both grown steadily, even showing signs of bouncing back after the damage that the Covid-19 pandemic did to the hotel and tourism sector.
Expedia Group Inc showered a 96% revenue increase in the third quarter of 2021, which compares well to the 22% revenue increase overall in the transport and logistics sector; Expedia Group is making above-average gains.
Since Hotels.com was first acquired by USA networks inc, the Expedia group has expanded dramatically, acquiring at least 17 other companies along the way, including at least two internet service providers, 10+ travel and short-term rental agencies, and New trade technologies – a Canadian based reservation software provider.
Other Hotels.com trademarks
In 2015 hotels.com launched a new competition/initiative involving a new concept called “unrooming,” which is loosely based on the popular ”Unboxing” videos that I’m sure we’ve all seen.
Hotels.com offered several incentives, including hundreds worth of hotel vouchers to be in with a chance of winning one of these incentives, customers were encouraged to record a quick 30-60 second video of them entering and reviewing a hotel room they’d booked via hotels.com and upload the video to Twitter and tag Hotels.com’s Twitter account.
Trademark registration for unrooming was submitted in January of 2016, and while Hotels.com isn’t currently offering this promotion, there’s every chance it could come back again.
”Trip your face” was another amusing incentive offered by Hotels.com to try to enhance their online presence and popularity. It was a successful social campaign that featured a rich and customizable experience in a changeable location. Customers could choose between New York, Paris, or Las Vegas.
It was a fun and silly way to gain exposure that allowed customers to enjoy superimposing their faces (and friends’ faces) onto videos to create a humorous illusion of being in a particular place on vacation. Options included being able to shoot a music video with Vanilla Ice in Las Vegas or partying with NBA star Dennis Rodman. While this option is currently suspended, it may yet return with the domain name (initially registered in February 2011) not expiring until February 2022. Trip your face was registered with the U.S. patent and trademark office in July 2012.
Last but not least is the Hotels.com logo itself, also trademarked, their ”H” logo in its three-dimensional format stands for hotel and can be used to denote Hotels.com when used in any color as per trademark law.
The logo was officially registered under a service mark with the united states patent and trademark office in November 2013.
Read more on trademarking logos.
Despite the issue of hotels.com being considered a generic term by the district court in a decision that might turn out to be contradictory, they still have around 50 registered trademarks spanning their 30 years in business.
Their parent company Expedia Inc has over 150 service marks currently registered, so it remains evident that they take the security of their intellectual property incredibly seriously, which is crucial in this day and age because without trademarking, you have no recourse if your property rights are infringed upon.