Dispute could lead to name changes at Yosemite Park

YOSEMITE NATIONAL PARK, Calif. — A dispute over the names of such iconic Yosemite National Park locations as the Ahwahnee Hotel and Curry Village has the park service considering renaming them.

Buffalo, New York-based Delaware North Companies, the park’s current concessionaire, has told park officials it owns the names and should be paid as much as $51 million for them if another company takes over the concession contract.

The park service is currently soliciting bids for the contract and disputes Delaware North’s ownership contention.

“These names are historical,” park spokesman Scott Gediman told the Fresno Bee. “They are part of Yosemite. The Ahwahnee dates back to 1927, and Curry Village goes back to 1899. These places and their names belong to the American people.”

Still, Gediman said the park service could change the names to protect other bidders from the added cost of buying them.

The contract to operate concessions at Yosemite is among the largest in the national park system with over $120 million in gross revenue each year. Delaware North won the contract for 15 years in the 1990s and was granted extensions to run the concessions after the contract was supposed to end in 2008, according to the Bee. The new contract is set to be awarded in mid-2015, and some observers say Delaware North may be trying to lessen its value for any potential competitors. The company has not decided yet whether it will bid on the new contract, said Lisa Cesaro, a spokeswoman for Delaware North at Yosemite.

Cesaro said the company was required as part of its 1993 contract to purchase all assets and liabilities in the park, including intangible assets such as the rights to the names. So it is only natural at this point that it would seek to sell them back, she said.

“We are in favor of a fair and transparent bidding process for the Yosemite concession contract, which is why we believe it is important to have a mutually agreed upon value for the concessioner assets, both tangible and intangible, established in advance of the bid submission due date,” she said in a statement.

Jim Stellmack, director of marketing for DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, told the Bee the National Park Service has long recognized the existence of intellectual property rights in concession contracts, and that Delaware North owns the names of the Yosemite businesses it operates to prevent other people from using them inappropriately.

The company has acquired trademark registrations for nearly all the places it manages at Yosemite, the San Francisco Chronicle, citing federal records, reported.

But Melville Owen, an attorney who specializes in trademark law, said that doesn’t mean it owns the names of the sites.

“It will be fascinating to see how this plays out,” he told the Chronicle.

If the dispute escalates, a court will look at where and when the names emerged, who had the rights to them and what happened to those rights, he said.


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