January 16, 2015

Yosemite Trademarks Owned by . . . Delaware North?

Yosemite is one of the crown jewels of our National Park system. That's mostly because of its natural beauty â Half Dome, El Capitan, Bridalveil Fall, and countless other features. But, like most of our western National Parks, Yosemite has some pretty sweet man-made attractions also, chief among them the grand lodges. The upscale Ahwahnee Hotel was built in the 1920s, the not-quite-so-grand Wawona Hotel dates to around 1880, and the rustic Curry Village dates to around 1900. Lovely trademarks all.

Ahwahnee Hotel

Ahwahnee Hotel**

Ownership of those trademarks is now in dispute. The lodging facilities at Yosemite have long been operated by concessionaires. When your humble blogger last visited the park

Wawona Hotel
, he paid a visit to the Yosemite Park & Curry Company, which had been the concessionaire for about 100 years. Since 1993, the facilities have been operated by the Delaware North Company (or some subsidiary or other). The trademarks THE AHWAHNEE, WAWONA, and CURRY VILLAGE are all registered, and the registrations are owned by a company called DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc. Same with the mark YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK (for specific goods generally in the nature of tchotchkes). All of the above registrations are "incontestable," meaning that for many purposes they're bulletproof.

DNC's contract with the National Park Service is about to expire, and the NPS plans to put the contract out for bid. DNC wants compensation for the trademarks, perhaps as a way of scaring off other bidders or making it more expensive to operate the facilities. It says the marks are worth a whole lot of money, which is probably true. The Park Service says it owns the names. Or, more heroically, it says the names "belong to the American people." (Cue patriotic montage . . . .)

El Capitan Shade

El Capitan**

Both sides will lawyer up, and it will be interesting to see how this plays out. My money's on NPS.

The lesson for trademark owners? If you have a product that's distributed by someone else, or a facility that's operated by someone else, don't let that other guy register your trademark! You may be able to get it back, and you may not, but you'll spend a lot of money fighting about it either way. Better to take care of this from the git-go, register your trademark, and avoid the fight.

Here's a nice video showing the park:

The lawyers at Trademarkology provide trademark registration services backed by the experience and service of one of the nation's oldest law firms. Click here to contact us.

**Photo credits: "El Capitan, Yosemite," Copyright 2014 Robbie Shade, used under Creative Commons license available here: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode; Historic photos of the Ahwahnee and the Wawona Hotels courtesy of the National Park Service.