Amid court battle, Yosemite park plans to change some iconic names

Bid farewell to some of Yosemite National Park’s most iconic names.

In an extraordinary move, the National Park Service announced Thursday that it was changing the names of The Ahwahnee hotel, Curry Village and other beloved park sites. The move, officials say, was forced on them by an intellectual property dispute with the park’s departing concessions company.

“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.”

The famed Ahwahnee is slated to become The Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Curry Village will become Half Dome Village, and the Wawona Hotel will become Big Trees Lodge.

In other changes, the popular Badger Pass Ski Area will be renamed the less evocative Yosemite Ski & Snowboard Area, and the Yosemite Lodge at the Falls will be reconfigured as the Yosemite Valley Lodge.

The name changes amount to a tactical response to the claims by the concession company, formally known as DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite Inc., that it owns the intellectual property and deserves to be paid for it. DNC is a subsidiary of Delaware North, which is based in Buffalo, New York.

In a lawsuit filed in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims in Washington, D.C., the concession company seeks compensation. The firm contended that its Yosemite intellectual property was worth $51 million, an amount it says it should be paid by the new concession company.

“While it is unfortunate that we must take this action, changing the names of these facilities will help us provide seamless service to the American public during the transition to the new concessioner,” Yosemite Superintendent Don Neubacher said in a statement issued Thursday afternoon.

In a statement Thursday, the Delaware North concession company said it was “shocked and disappointed that the National Park Service would consider using the beloved names of places in Yosemite National Park as a bargaining chip in a legal dispute.”

The company added that it had “previously offered to lease these trademarks, free of any charge,” to allow their continued use at Yosemite.

The concession company’s complaint, filed last September, does not seek to overturn the park service’s award of the new 15-year Yosemite concessions contract to the Philadelphia-based Aramark. Instead, the suit seeks an unspecified amount of damages from the park service.

The company contended it should be paid this money if another company secured the Yosemite contract.

In its lawsuit, the company says it “maintained the registration and fully exploited the trademarks” it assumed when it took over the Yosemite contract, and “created, used and registered additional” trademarks.

The lawsuit further asserts that the park service’s “failure to require Aramark to purchase and pay fair value for the property” hurt Delaware North. The incumbent company’s bid would have been “materially different,” and probably more successful, had the park service made clear its intention not to require purchase of the intellectual or other intangible property, the lawsuit claims.

“DNCY had two independent appraisals of the intellectual property . . . performed by reputable third-party experts,” the company added in a statement earlier this month.

In an aggressive response, the Justice Department asserted earlier this month that DNC had proposed an “improper and wildly inflated” value for the trademarked park names.

The company valued the trademarked names at $44 million. The National Park Service, by contrast, said the trademarks for such park names as The Ahwahnee hotel were worth only $1.63 million.