Ugh, I can’t believe this is still making headlines. And now March 1st is just a few days away. But I think the news reports, and the social media hype, are all extremely short on details, and heavy on conclusion and bandwagon-jumping. So, is it justified?
The Whole History of Yosemite VS DNC
Let’s go back all the way. Curry Village for example, was officially named in 1970. So DNC did not give it its name, that’s for darn sure. According to Wikipedia, the concession contract was granted/purchased by DNC back in 1993, for $115M in today’s dollars. (Does anybody care to do the inflation math in reverse?) This sale did include some sort of “intellectual property” however you’ll have to get back to me if the specific word “trademark” is anywhere in that original sale.. (I don’t know if the “intellectual property” was itemized in the sale, either.)
Apparently, somehow they now own even the name “Yosemite National Park” and the slogan “Go climb a rock”. Um, excuse me?
In 2014 when the NPS decided to switch concessionaires from DNC to Yosemite Hospitality LLC, apparently they “forgot” to list the intellectual property as part of the sale, the new contract. So, DNC filed a lawsuit asking a court to determine the market value for that “intellectual property” so that they could be paid fairly.
DNC asked for $51M, NPS countered with a $3.5M offer. From there, it got worse. Allegedly the NPS las lost interest in discussing price, and has opted to just pressure DNC to drop the case entirely. Also, apparently, some news articles talk about the trademarks as if they were in fact bought in 1993, even though they weren’t even legally filed until almost a decade later.
So yes indeed, there’s corporate greed afoot. But wasn’t the sale of the “intellectual property” in the first place a bit of a bone-headed move, now coming back to haunt the NPS? I can’t help but find myself wondering, “who in their right mind would sell the *NAME* Yosemite National Park, for any reason whatsoever? How is something like that ever for sale at all? How did we as a nation allow this to become a tool for corporate money-grubbing? Did the NPS just desperately need some cash at the time, so they decided to throw in the trademarks for a few extra bucks? Or, did they have no idea they were actually selling the name of a national park, or other iconic names?
The answer is complicated, but it seems to stink of corporate sneakiness no matter how deep you dig. Basically, from my conversations with other folks who greatly appreciate Yosemite National Park as I do, it seems that DNC may have been playing a subtle, long-term game with the “intellectual property” situation.
Simply put, whether or not DNC was actually buying specific ownership of the names of places like the Ahwahnee Hotel back in 1993, they waited until 2002 to actually file the name “Ahwahnee Hotel” as a trademark. They also trademarked “Yosemite National Park” then, and have since been filing other trademarks every now and then. They even filed a Yosemite related trademark in 2015, apparently after they had lost the concession contract. A trademark is nothing new, in fact they have been around since the 1800’s. So, what happened in 1993, and how did DNC even get away with shenanigans like this? Therein lies the shaky grounds for this whole fight. Now you know!
Either way, I’m thinking, if the original contract in 1993 had simply stated “you own these businesses, the property, and you may operate under these names, but the names / trademarks remain the property of the NPS” …then this whole thing would have been dead in its tracks today. So yes DNC are money-grubbing; if they paid $115M and yet are asking for $51M for JUST the trademarks today, they’re crazy.
But who’s to say the NPS’ offer of $3.5M wasn’t a slap-in-the-face lowball? And now it sounds like they’re just being cranky and un-cooperative about the whole thing, allegedly:
“NPS declined to discuss the fair value of DNCY’s property [in court] and instead pressured DNCY to waive its rights to be compensated for intellectual property and capital improvements…” – DNC
If I was the CEO of DNC, I’d happily take a $3.5M bone if the NPS threw me one, and let the whole thing be finally done with. But that’s probably exactly why I’ll never be a CEO- I have too big a heart for historic nostalgia, and too big an aversion to hardball corporate business tactics.
Then again, if I had been in charge of Yosemite or the NPS back in 1993 I would have definitely made a ruckus over the thought of selling the name “Yosemite National Park” to a big corporation.
Either way, I don’t care what they call these places on March 1st, I’ll always call them by their historic names. And if a tourist asks me “how do I get to the Majestic Yosemite Hotel?” …I’ll just stare at them blankly and walk away, because I won’t even correctly remember that name five minutes after I finish writing this sentence. Majestic-valley-dome what, you say?
I also hope some die-hard Yosemite fans preemptively duplicate the existing road signs ad-infinitum and then hang them back up over the changed new signs. ‘Cause that’d be hilariously entertaining. But then again DNC wouldn’t be the victim of such shenanigans anyways, so never mind.
Anyways, now you know the whole story. Buried somewhere under social media’s cries about cold-hearted corporate greed, DNC is probably going to legally maneuver their way through this, like it or not, because they are cunning businessmen. One thing is for sure, this won’t end in DNC just rolling over and playing dead just because of social media uproar, or a disorganized, small-scale boycott.
I would say that some serious lobbying and/or boycotting by park-goers might do the trick, but it seems to be too late for that, depending on how much longer DNC will be collecting profits from their business in the park. At this point, the main ingredient would seem to be some serious change-of-heart on the part of DNC execs. So, a snowball’s chance…?
Take care, and happy adventures,
Yosemite VS DNC Trademark Dispute References
(Anybody feel free to chime in if my facts aren’t straight! I appreciate fact-checking.)
(If I glean any info as to the reasons behind the sale of the names / trademarks in this document from 1993, I’ll add them here.)
I enjoy playing devil’s advocate. If you don’t, that’s okay. I like to at least try to fully understand both sides of an argument, and know the whole story, before forming an opinion. But its’ a process, and I never claim to be more informed than someone else. So, if I’m totally wrong about something, or if you simply disagree entirely, feel free to chime in, as long as you’re respectful. Thanks!