Iconic Yosemite Attractions to Change Names in #Trademark Dispute

By Joseph Mandour on January 20, 2016

yosemiteOrange County – When Yosemite National Park chose to change concession providers from Delaware North to Aramark, Delaware North responded by filing a lawsuit with a trademark dispute at its core.

Delaware North won the contract to run Yosemite’s lodges, stores, restaurants, and outdoor activities back in 1993. Part of the contract required Delaware North to buy the former concessionaire’s assets. This requirement meant Delaware North obtained the intellectual property rights to some of the names relating to merchandising in the park.

Over the years, Delaware North also began filing trademark applications for names associated with the lodges and merchandising in the park, which the government claims Delaware North did without its knowledge.

Many of these applications were granted, and these trademarks (in addition to the ones Delaware North purchased when it acquired the concession contract) are at the heart of the dispute.

Recently, Yosemite awarded the 15-year concession contract to Aramark, making it the largest single contract for the National Park Service-valued at $2 billion. In response, Delaware North filed a lawsuit against the National Park Service. The company’s argument is that because they were required to purchase the former concessionaire’s assets when they received the contract, Aramark should also be required to purchase the assets at fair market value.

The first dispute is over the amount Aramark would be required to pay to obtain the intellectual property assets. Delaware North is asking $51 million while the National Park Service assess the value at $3.5 million.

The second, more crucial issue is whether a private company can own trademarks to historical names so closely connected to the buildings and merchandising themselves. Delaware North, one of the largest privately held companies in the United States with $3 billion annual revenue, currently holds more than 30 trademarks relating to various National Parks where it also runs concessions. Many argue that a company should not be allowed to hold these trademarks that should belong to the American people.

In response to the lawsuit filed by Delaware North, Yosemite Park decided to change the trademarked names. The park stated the name changes, while unfortunate, are an effort to prevent disruption to visitors as they transition to working with Aramark. The parks also stated they will be fighting for the rights to the names.

Some expressed concern over the name changes such as the Ahwahnee hotel to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Wawona Hotel to Big Trees Lodge means that the park is losing an homage to its Native American heritage.

A park spokesperson stated, “We feel very strongly that these historic names are associated with the buildings and belong to the American people.”

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