Convention Authority Seeking to Halt Drug Ads

9 August 2006

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority board said Tuesday it will formally oppose a local drug company's quest to trademark the phrase "What happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas."

Samaritan Pharmaceuticals last summer applied to federally register the phrase to promote its research-stage medical products, as well as Southern Nevada's biotech industry.

Because Samaritan's phrase is similar to the "What happens here, stays here" slogan used by the authority, however, board members authorized legal counsel Luke Puschnig to take action against Samaritan.

The authority has spent nearly $115 million to promote "What happens here, stays here" on a national level, and several board members were incensed last month when told of Samaritan's application, largely because the company's research reportedly involves treatment for AIDS patients.

Authority leaders worried that widespread public exposure to Samaritan's slogan could imply that visitors who indulge in sexual activities in Las Vegas will be infected with a deadly disease.

Samaritan Chief Financial Officer Eugene Boyle contends his company's trademark applications would highlight that efforts are under way to develop life-saving drugs in a place known largely for its casinos.

Authority executives recently met with Samaritan to discuss potential compromises, but Puschnig said Tuesday the company refused to withdraw its applications.

In a written statement, Samaritan president Janet Greeson said her company offered to assign its trademark, if federally approved, to the authority in exchange for a license to use "What happens in Vegas does not always stay in Vegas" in upcoming ads.

But Puschnig told the board his staff believes any outside uses would be "detrimental to the destination."

The fight will now shift to the United States Patent and Trademark Office in Washington, D.C., where Puschnig said legal costs associated with the trademark challenge could approach $100,000.

Samaritan was formed 12 years ago and became a public company in October 1997. It employs 10 people locally at its headquarters on Convention Center Drive, less than a mile from the authority's offices at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Multiple local critics dismissed Samaritan's application as a publicity stunt by a company that has reported losses of nearly $35 million since its inception, according to documents filed in May with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

No Samaritan product has been approved for commercial production, SEC documents show.


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