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Park service wrong to change Yosemite names, concessionaire says

How Yosemite National Park influences a broader economy

Yosemite National Park attracts about 4 million visitors every year, and those visitors arrive with money to spend. Yosemite is an important economic engine to nearby communities in its "gateway" region within 60 miles of the park. The National Pa
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Yosemite National Park attracts about 4 million visitors every year, and those visitors arrive with money to spend. Yosemite is an important economic engine to nearby communities in its "gateway" region within 60 miles of the park. The National Pa

The legal and public relations battle over trademarked names in Yosemite National Park has taken a new turn in a federal courthouse far from California.

The departing concession company that secured trademarks for famed Yosemite names such as “The Ahwahnee” hotel claims in a revised lawsuit that the National Park Service is trying to undermine the market value of those names.

The park service announced Jan. 14 that it would change trademarked names, including the Ahwahnee, Curry Village and the Wawona Hotel, once a new concession company takes over March 1 from DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, a subsidiary of Delaware North.

Park service officials say they are compelled to change the names to avoid infringing on Delaware North’s trademarks. But in an amended 25-page complaint quietly filed Monday at the U.S. Court of Federal Claims, the company blasted the name changes as a hardball tactic.

“NPS announced these name changes for two reasons: As an effort to reduce the value of DNCY’s trademarks and . . . to create public pressure on DNCY to accept less than fair value for its intellectual property in order to avoid reputational harm and the loss of future concession contract bids,” the revised lawsuit says.

NPS had no need to change the names in order to avoid potential infringement claims and was not compelled to do so by DNCY.

Amended complaint by DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite

Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman said Tuesday that the park service “has seen the amended complaint (and) is reviewing it, but does not have a comment at this point.”

The amended complaint expands on a lawsuit initially filed by Delaware North last September after the park service awarded a new 15-year Yosemite concession contract to a subsidiary of Philadelphia-based Aramark.

Delaware North has run Yosemite’s primary concession operations since 1993. The original contract expired in 2008 but had been extended several times.

“It’s a shame we find ourselves in this,” said Dan Jensen, former president of Delaware North’s operations in Yosemite and currently a consultant. “We really are an excellent concessioner. We did a really, really good job in the park.”

In what park service officials say was an unpleasant surprise, Delaware North in 2002 started securing trademarks for about half a dozen Yosemite-related names. The company subsequently put the value of its Yosemite trademarks, intellectual property and intangible assets at $51 million.

Aramark, the incoming concession company, must purchase these assets from Delaware North. The current conflict involves, in part, fixing a fair price for what Aramark must buy.

Aramark spokesman David Freirich said Tuesday that “it would be inappropriate for us to comment” on the legal dispute, though he made note of an earlier park service statement that countered Delaware North’s arguments. He added that company officials are excited about the new Yosemite business, and he predicted a seamless management transition March 1.

The revised lawsuit noted that Delaware North on Jan. 2 offered the National Park Service a temporary “royalty-free license . . . to use the Yosemite-related trademarks, with the right to sub-license such use” to Aramark, pending resolution of the fair value question.

“In light of DNCY’s offer to license the marks while this litigation goes forward pending an assignment of all rights to the new concessioner for fair value, NPS had no need to change the names in order to avoid potential infringement claims and was not compelled to do so by DNCY,” the revised lawsuit says.

The revised suit is 15 pages longer than the original complaint, and it contains additional information as well as pointed details about how the park service managed the concession competition.

Aramark itself filed an application last month to trademark a Yosemite-related logo, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The company abandoned the logo trademark effort Jan. 13, however.

Michael Doyle: 202-383-0006, @MichaelDoyle10

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