Yosemite's "Other Property", Trademarks and Nature Collide

Mountains, waterfalls, lush green valleys, and valuable trademarks - The early inhabitants were incredibly wise when they decided to name their beloved Yosemite Valley "Ahwanee", or "big mouth".  Could they have possibly foreseen the current "big mouths" fighting over the sale of trademark "rights" to their sacred land?  The "big mouths" in this case are Delaware North, a concession company, and the National Park Service.  The fight is a legal battle "worth" millions.

In 1993, the National Park Service awarded  Delaware North a fifteen year (and some extensions) contract to serve the beautiful Yosemite National Park's concession needs.  That contract eventually expired on February 29, 2016.  Delaware North, however, did not go peacefully into the woods.  At the end of last year, Delaware North sued the National Park Service for breach of contract.  

When Delaware North first contracted with the National Park Service, it was required to purchase any "possessory interest and 'other property'" from the park's previous concessionaire - The Curry Company.  That "other property" included trademakrs (i.e. "The Ahwanee"), slogans (i.e. "Go Climb a Rock"), and logos (i.e. the Half Dome logo).  The understanding was that if Delaware North and the National Park Service parted ways, the succeeding concessionaire replacing Delaware North would also be required to purchase Delaware North's assets.   

Last year, Delaware North lost its bid to serve as concessionaire for Yosemite National Park. The new concessionaire, however, did not pay Delaware North for Delaware North's alleged intellectual property rights in slogans and historic names both purchased from The Curry Company and acquired over Delaware North's twenty-three years of "government service" (without a peep from the National Park Service).  According to  Delaware North's lawyers, however, the successful concessionaire was required to purchase  "other property" used in connection with the park.  Delaware North  seeks remuneration for their claimed intellectual property rights, the "other property".  $51 million would suffice.

Who is really to blame in this case?  Is it the National Park Service for failing to adequately protect Yosemite from commercial exploitation?  Is it Delaware North who arguably seeks excessive remuneration for intellectual property "rights" to historic names and places?  Or is it the visitors who must now refer to The Ahwanee Hotel (first named in 1927) as the Majestic Yosemite Hotel?

Let's meet up to discuss at The Ahwanee Hotel after a nice hike up Half Dome.  Don't worry, I am a trademark attorney.