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When news first came out about Yosemite "losing" its trademark rights to a greedy Madison Ave. company, people predictably started foaming at the mouth. But it turns out that it's a little more nuanced than that.
In the end, it could be a case of "big bad corporate America against Park Service" turned on its head. Welcome to IP meets National Parks.
It's tempting to believe that the National Park Service was dragooned into giving up its trademark rights to corporate interests, but that's not what happened. For years, Yosemite has been in contract with concessionaire companies serving food in the park and offering other creature comforts to the visitors. In the early 90s, the exclusive-rights contract was passed from Curry Co. to Delaware North, a New York based company with experience handling ball games -- not national parks.
Fast forward to 2014. A new round of bidding begins. According to the terms of the contract, the winning bidder would pay Delaware North the fair market value of its assets including much real property and its trademark rights in the park including the term "Yosemite National Park." The NPS appraised the value at $30 million, $1.64 million of that to IP value. Delaware North said no, the total value of the "other property" was really $100 million, $44 million of that going to IP value.
Run of the Mill Contract Suit
So, it turns out that this dispute most likely would have never reached readers' eyes if there was agreement as to the value of the "other property" involved in the anticipated transfer. Chances are, most visitors to Yosemite were completely unaware that alongwith the majestic facades of stone, towering trees, and breathtaking wilderness, they were also surrounded by towering trademark disputes.