Many people associate intellectual property law with music, writing, protection of logos and business trademarks. But intellectual property law can be complex and have many facets, as witnessed in the dispute over who owns the rights to certain Yosemite landmark names and what they are worth.

A number of landmarks and hotels in the Yosemite National Park will soon be renamed due to a dispute over the trademarks covering the attractions? names.

The National Park Service announced it would be changing the names of five world famous park attractions, including Curry Village and the Ahwahnee and Wawona hotels. Although the National Park Service owns the hotels, cabins, and ski slopes at issue, it does not own the trademarks associated with them. Instead, the trademarks are owned by the New York concessionaire Delaware North Cos.

Delaware North claims that it was required to purchase (for the equivalent of what would be $115 million today) the rights to the names of several famed sites within the park when it took over the operations at Yosemite in 1993. Delaware North took over the operations from a company that had previously managed the Yosemite operations for a period of over 100 years.

Last year, Delaware North lost its concessions contract at Yosemite to its rival Aramark. Delaware North contends that its intellectual property is worth $51 million. Delaware North claims that its value is based on two appraisals by experts. However, the National Parks Service claims that it is worth about $3.5 million. Delaware North has offered to use binding arbitration to set the value of its intellectual property rights.

Delaware North has also offered to license the use of the trademarks for free so that the names could continue to be used while the dispute is hashed out in court. Although this may seem altruistic, the offer was likely self-serving so as to ensure that the Yosemite trademarks do not lose value should the legal dispute extend for a number of years.

Delaware North?s contract is set to expire at the end of February so the law requires the name changes to come into effect once Aramark takes over the operations at Yosemite. Delaware North argues that Aramark should purchase its intellectual property rights at Yosemite just as Delaware North did when it took over the Yosemite operations back in 1993. Delaware North claims that its only goal is to sell the intellectual property rights to the new concessionaire, Aramark, for a fair value.

Some experts feel as though Delaware North has breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing in its moves. The concessions contract which Delaware North lost to Aramark is valued at $2 billion over fifteen years.

The National Park Service announced the following name changes:

  • Curry Village will become Half Dome Village
  • Yosemite Lodge at the Fall will be renamed Yosemite Valley Lodge
  • Badger Pass Ski Area will become Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area.
  • The Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.
  • The Wawona Hotel will be renamed to Big Trees Lodge.

Delaware North is also claiming that it owns the trademarks to the phrase ?Yosemite National Park.? The name changes will require significant changes to signs, brochures, marketing materials, and maps. This case highlights the significance of owning and maintaining your intellectual property rights.

Contact Powell & Roman if you have questions about your copyright, trademark, patent or intellectual property rights.