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Yosemite National Park renames historic sites amid ridiculous trademark dispute

Admirers of Yosemite National Park may be disappointed to learn that some names of the Park’s iconic buildings and sites will be completely changed. The historic Ahwahnee hotel will become The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Curry Village will be renamed the Half Dome Village, and the Wawona Hotel will now be called Big Trees Lodge.

Other changes include the popular Badger Pass Ski Area being renamed Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, and the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls will become the Yosemite Valley Lodge, reports The Sacramento Bee.

The renaming of some of Yosemite National Park’s historic sites and buildings come amid a legal battle between the Park and the company that supplied concessions since 1993, New York-based Delaware North Parks & Resorts or technically, its subsidiary DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite. The concession company sold souvenirs, food and beverages in the Park, as well as provided transportation and tours.

‘Those names belong to the American people’

When DNCY became the Park’s concession provider in the 90s, it was required to purchase the assets of the previous operator, Yosemite Park & Curry Company. The same transaction would take place when another concessioner took over, which occurred in recent months.

The contract states:

 [DNCY will] sell and transfer to the successor designated by the Secretary its POSSESSORY INTEREST in CONCESSIONER and GOVERNMENT IMPROVEMENTS, if any, as defined under the contract, and all other of [DNCY] used or held for use in connection with such operations

… the Secretary will require such successor, as a condition to the granting of a contract to operate, to purchase from [DNCY] such POSSESSORY INTEREST, if any, and such other property, and to pay [DNCY] the fair value thereof.

As Tech Dirt’s Mike Masnick explains, it’s unclear exactly when the names of popular sites and buildings in Yosemite National Park became trademarked by the concession company, which allowed those names to potentially be considered “other property.”

Why are concession companies allowed to trademark historical park names?

Some reports say the prior concession company trademarked the names in 1988, while others alleged DNCY inconspicuously trademarked the names of beloved places in the Park, including the historic Ahwahnee hotel, which Masnick describes as being “the fancy ‘nice’ hotel in the park.”

It’s noteworthy to point out that the “property” in question doesn’t include any actual property or land, but simply includes the trademarked names. Strangely, the Park seems to have forgotten about the trademarks.

The conflict arose when the Park started soliciting new bids for a concessioner, after which DNCY reminded them that it had registered those trademark names, meaning if the Park were to award the contract to a new company, that concessioner would be required to buy DNCY’s assets – including its historic names – which is valued at $51 million.

Distraught, Park officials stated:

Delaware North’s trademark claims come at a time when the park service is soliciting bids for a new concessionaire’s agreement at Yosemite.

Delaware North contends that if the park service decides to award the concessions agreement to another company, then the park service must pay Delaware North $51 million in “intellectual property rights” fees for the right to continue to use the names Ahwahnee Hotel, Badger Pass, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel, and Yosemite Lodge, park documents show.

“This came as a complete surprise to us,” said Yosemite chief spokesperson Scott Gediman, who is also a park ranger. “We did not think [Delaware North] would claim ownership to these names. … These names belong to the American people.”

The Park pulls a slick move

DNCY took its claims to court last fall after the Park awarded the contract to a new company. The former concessioner eventually requested $44 million for the historic names, which the Park says are worth only $1.63 million.

Then, in an interesting turn of events, the Park decided to drop the names altogether. As Masnick reports, Yosemite basically said ‘Hey, Delaware North, let’s see how valuable your trademarks are if we just drop them entirely.’

“We feel we have to change the names,” Yosemite spokesman Scott Gediman said in an interview Thursday. “With the ongoing litigation, we feel this step is necessary.”

According to Masnick: “The Park has a point, in that no one is coming there for the names. And while it’ll certainly annoy traditionalists who are used to those names, it seems like a reasonable move to effectively pull the rug out from under Delaware North.”




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