Who owns the Yosemite National Park Trademarks?

By Joseph Mandour on January 23, 2015

yosemiteLos Angeles – The names of the attractions associated with Yosemite National Park are being threatened in a trademark dispute. Yosemite is known for its amazing vistas and its connection with nature and preserving land. Names of popular sites such as the Ahwahnee Hotel remind many of the architecture and its resemblance to the world famous landmarks nearby like El Capitan.

The names of the Ahwahnee hotel and other trademarks such as Yosemite Lodge, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel and Badger Pass are all part of the dispute. Delaware North of New York, the concessionaire in charge of running the hotels, restaurants and lodges, is alleging that it owns the trademarks for the properties that it is managing. The dispute arose because Delaware North’s contract with Yosemite is up for renewal.

If Delaware North does not have its agreement renewed, it is claiming that it would be owed $51 million to relinquish ownership of the names should another contractor be hired. Such a huge payout concerns park officials because it is believed that potential bidders would drastically lower the amount they would be willing to pay to take over the contract. It is believed that many would not bid at all just to avoid a legal entanglement. This all works to the benefit of Delaware North because with the uncertainty in the air the price to renew will likely go down. It appears that an affiliate of Delaware North registered many trademarks associated with the properties at issue, perhaps unbeknownst to the park.

If a deal cannot be worked out with Delaware North, the park is considering ceasing use of the trademarks at issue and instead giving the attractions new names. This would be unfortunate since many of the familiar names have over a one-hundred year history with the park. Newer unknown names and trademarks could also lead to confusion and lower revenue for the park.

The trademark issues stem from a 1993 contract between the park and Delaware North. The agreement states that Delaware North was to buy the assets of its predecessor and sell them to the park service. Park officials claim that the names therefore belong to Yosemite, and more importantly the American people. Delaware North claims that it still owns the trademarks.

Should this dispute be resolved in court, the park could allege prior use of the trademarks which may play heavily in the ultimate determination of ownership.

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