By Josh Escovedo
IP Law Blog
A few years ago, when the concessionaire for Yosemite National Park (the “Park”), Delaware North, was informed that the Park planned to consider other concessionaires, such as Aramark, Delaware North responded in shocking fashion. Delaware North responded that if it was going to be replaced as the concessionaire, it intended to take the Park’s intellectual property (the “IP”), such as the Ahwahnee Hotel and Curry Village, with it unless it was paid $51 million for the IP. Although the Park disputed Delaware’s claim to the IP, it changed the names of certain venues such as the Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, Badger Pass Skin Run, and the Wawona Hotel. The sites were renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, Half Dome Village, Yosemite Ski and Snowboard Area, and Big Trees Lodge.
When Park Services decided to award the contract to Aramark instead of Delaware North, Delaware North sued Park Services in federal court. Since that time, the matter has been pending in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California, and the names have been changed as identified above. But it appears that the litigation has finally concluded, with the parties having entered into a $12 million deal between Delaware North, the federal government, and Aramark. The federal government will pay Delaware North $3.8 million and Aramark will pay Delaware North $8.2 million. When Aramark’s contract with Yosemite expires in 2031, the intellectual property assets will transfer to the National Park Service, who will license the IP to the next concessionaire.
This result will bring much joy to those who frequent Yosemite National Park. Those individuals, with some exceptions of course, continued to use the historic monikers such as the Ahwahnee Hotel and Badger Pass to refer to those venues. The name change was viewed with much disdain by lifelong attendees of the Park and others who had developed sentimental attachment to the old names. Although I grew up in Fresno, I never spent much time in Yosemite, but even with my limited exposure, I had trouble accepting the change from Ahwahnee Hotel to Majestic Yosemite Hotel. No offense to the latter name, it just represents an undesirable change to tradition. So if I feel that way, and I was never much of a Yosemite attendee, I can only imagine how frustrated the forced change must have been for Yosemite aficionados.
But the Yosemite and nature aficionados don’t need to concern themselves anymore. With the deal reached by the federal government, Delaware North, and Aramark, the traditional names for the Yosemite venues will return. Now those who frequent Yosemite National Park can put those new names in the rearview mirror and never look back. Tradition is here to stay.
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