Colorado fans of Yosemite National Park may be pleased to know that historic sites at the national park are reclaiming their names after a lawsuit was settled. A former concession operator at the park sued the National Park Service in September 2015. The operator claimed that the park service was infringing its trade names and trademarks. As a result, the Ahwahnee Hotel was renamed the Majestic Yosemite Hotel. Other sites also received new names: Curry Village was called Half Dome Village, and the Wawona Hotel was rechristened Big Trees Lodge. Even some of the park’s ski areas took on new names during the pending litigation.
On July 15, the National Park Service agreed to a $12 million trademark litigation settlement with the former concessionaire, leaving the service free to use the sites’ original names once again. A spokesperson for the park said that they were looking forward to using the names, which have an emotional resonance with many park visitors. During the lawsuit, temporary signs were erected over the original signs at the park with the new names. While the old names were covered up, they were not removed. Park officials removed the covers as soon as the settlement was announced. On the other hand, road signs, websites and directories will take longer for updates.
The majority of the settlement, $8.16 million, was paid by Aramark, the company that replaced the previous concessionaire at the National Park. The remainder was paid out by the federal government. Under an agreement between the park service and Aramark, the trademarks will revert to the government after the contract is ended.
Trademarks are important to many businesses because they often carry an emotional familiarity that goes beyond a recognizable name. Companies facing infringement of their intellectual property rights may turn to a lawyer to pursue a solution.