Yosemite's Iconic Attractions Renamed in Trademark Battle

As of Tuesday, the historic Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Curry Village campground will be named Half Dome Village.

Yosemite National Park is set to start showing the new names for some of park's most iconic attractions after no settlement was reached to a bitter legal dispute.

As of Tuesday, the historic Ahwahnee Hotel will become the Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Curry Village campground will be named Half Dome Village. Badger Pass Ski Resort will now be Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area.

The park service announced last year that it would change the names of Curry Village, the Ahwahnee Hotel, Badger Pass Ski Resort and many other attractions after failing to reach agreement with the company that says it owns the trademarks to those attractions.

Amy Trainer, executive director of the Environmental Action Committee of West Marin, who keeps close tabs on the national park system, said in an earlier interview that the move to trademark such high-profile park institutions is likely unprecedented.

"I don't know that this has ever happened before," Trainer told NBC Bay Area in a 2014 interview. "It will be a real travesty if this company is allowed to hijack the name of one of America's most beloved places and hold it for ransom. It won't change the majesty of the Ahwahnee Hotel, but certainly something will be lost."

The trademark issue was first reported by the alternative weekly in Oakland, the East Bay Express, and it appeared to have caught the National Park Service off guard.

The company, Delaware North, has served as the park's concessionaire since 1993, running numerous park operations until losing the contract to Aramark, which is scheduled to take over at midnight. Delaware North and the Park Service have been unable to agree on the value of the trademarks and the Buffalo, New York-based company filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit.

The dispute prompted the Park Service to announce the name changes. Starting at midnight, Park Service employees began placing temporary signs over road signs directing visitors to the attractions while Aramark will be responsible for changing the names of the attractions.

Park Service spokesman Scott Gediman said temporary signs are being used in the hope that a settlement will be reached with Delaware North.

An historic sign welcoming visitors to the park's Ahwahnee Hotel was stolen sometime Saturday night or Sunday morning, Gediman said.

"It's part of the park's historic fabric," Gediman said. "And we are taking this seriously."

The Ahwahnee Hotel is to be renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel.

Delaware North spokesman Glen White said Park Service officials turned down the company's offer to let the park continue using the trademark names until the legal dispute was resolved.

In a lengthy email to NBC Bay Area two years ago, Delaware North at Yosemite Director of Marketing Jim Stellmack explained what he called a "complex" issue. He said that the National Park Service required his company to buy the stock from the previous concessionaire, the Yosemite Park and Curry Co., which it turn made Delaware North the owners of those assets, which are both "tangible and intangible."

Stellmack compared the issue to when the National Park Service gave intellectual property rights over to "The Ansel Adams Gallery" in Yosemite, "Verkamp's," a shop previously operated in the Grand Canyon and the logo for the Red Bus Tours in Glacier National Park, which the previous concessionaire would not sell to the successor.

In a follow-up phone interview at the time, Stellmark said the naming rights have been trademarked "all along," since before Delaware North took over the hotel and restaurant operations, and it's likely coming to light now as his company's contract is up for renewal.

Gediman said the Park Service turned down the offer made Friday because that would "acknowledge they own the names.''

Mark Bartholomew, a University at Buffalo law professor who teaches trademark law, says Delaware North may also want to preserve the value of the names at issue. The iconic names will lose value if they are no longer used, he said.

"I think all sides will ultimately come to an agreement after some more posturing,'' Bartholomew said.

Court filing show the Park Service valuing the trademarks at $3.5 million and Delaware North puts their worth at $51 million.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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