July 22nd, 9:07pm
There’s confusion in Yosemite. This season, the historic Ahwahnee and Wawona hotels and the legendary Curry Village, are operating as the Majestic Yosemite Lodge, Big Trees Lodge, and Half Dome Village, respectively. Even Yosemite National Park is selling merchandise marked only as “Yosemite.”
Here’s the short of the legal battle: the previous concessionaire, Delaware North, lost the bid this year to Aramark. Delaware North sued, claiming that Aramark needed to pay for the historic names that Delaware North had trademarked (entirely between 2003-2009) - intellectual property that they value at over $50 million. The Park Service has filed a petition with the U.S. Patent Office to cancel these trademarks, but changed all signs until the case can be heard in 2017.
In our travels, we’ve discovered that stories often explain one of two things: why things have happened, or where a name comes from. Place names carry great significance. And in a place like a National Park, that sense of ownership can reach some of our most emotional memories: family, memory, tradition, discovery. The name of a place can be just as emotional. Maybe it was a shrewd business move of Delaware North to trademark such historic properties. Maybe it was an oversight for the Park Service to overlook the intellectual property of their own assets. Maybe the mistake is with the Patent Office, who granted trademarks to a contractor. But the fact that a legal technicality has taken a whole network of names away is a travesty.
Here’s what we think: you can’t own names like the Ahwahnee, the Wawona, or Curry Village. In a land that is protected for the American public, they belong to everyone, especially those who have built memories over generations. Delaware North needs to drop the suit and return the Ahwahnee, the Wawona, and Curry Village as soon as possible to we, the people.
To learn more, read either of these fine articles: