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A few of the iconic structures and sites at Yosemite National Park are being renamed due to a legal battle over trademarks, the National Park Service said.
In one move, The Ahwahnee Hotel, built in 1927 and a National Historic Landmark in the Yosemite Valley, will have its exotic-sounding name changed to The Majestic Yosemite Hotel
The Park Service says Delaware North claims ownership of some of the park's tradenames and trademarks, and is demanding more than $50 million in compensation for the rights to those names.
Delaware North said in a statement that the Park Service "is trying to use them (beloved names of places in Yosemite) as a bargaining chip in a legal dispute involving basic contract rights.
Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman told CNN affiliate KFSN, "the names of the structures belong to the American people... and Delaware North is not entitled to any compensation."
The NPS in 1993 required DNCY, as the new concessionaire at Yosemite, to purchase the assets of the previous concessionaire, including its intellectual property, at a cost of $115 million in today's dollars along with the assumption of $40 million in liabilities. That included several valuable trademarked names such as The Ahwahnee. In turn, the DNCY contract requires the NPS to have the new concessionaire buy all of DNCY's property, including its intellectual property. The NPS recently reaffirmed this in a December 29, 2015 letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior (retracting NPS's earlier position that intellectual property was not included).
The National Park Service has repeatedly flip-flopped on the issue of intellectual property. During the RFP process, it at first completely ignored the issue. Then in December 2014 NPS notified all potential bidders that the new concessionaire would be required to purchase the intangible assets of the existing concessionaire, DNCY. Then, after more than eight months and after selecting Aramark for the award, in August 2015 NPS sent a letter to DNCY stating that it had decided that it wouldn't require the winning bidder to purchase the intangible assets. Four months later on December 29, 2015 (and after DNCY commenced litigation over the issue), NPS retracted its August, 2015 letter and reaffirmed that the winning bidder must purchase intangible assets such as trademarks, customer database, and domain names from DNCY.
Although the name change may increase the government's leverage by slashing the value of the disputed marks, it certainly won't help the businesses that have already printed guides and souvenirs, nor mollify angry visitors caught in a commercial war over the landmarks they love. But the National Park Service sees it as only a temporary adjustment, and hopes to restore the original names once the lawsuit is resolved.
The principle here is clear. Trademarks over the names and other intrinsic features of iconic destinations such as The Ahwahnee should benefit the owners of those destinations — the taxpayers. Ideally, the government would own these marks, and it could license them to concessions operators for the duration of their contracts. That's the direction the Park Service is heading in its new contract with Aramark, but sadly not the path the government followed in its dealings with Delaware North.
In its response filed Monday, the Justice Department said Delaware North, beginning in 2002, quietly has attempted to trademark the phrase “Yosemite National Park” and several names of the venues at the park, saying it is part of an apparent “business model” of the company to collect trademarks of notable United States properties where Delaware North holds the concessions.
Who controls the marks
opportunistic (individuals/companys/attorneys) that aggressively pursue potential trademark/copyright/patent violations for purposes of making money through litigation, generally without any intension of producing or licensing those materials.