The Law Office of Lynnette Ariathurai A Professional Corporation

Contract dispute rages over trademarks on Yosemite concessions

It is somewhat common in California and other states for businesses to engage in disputes over the use of trademark names and similar proprietary material. An example of one kind of a large-scale contract dispute involving the use of trademark names is the current litigation between the National Park Service and a company demanding future trademark royalties for the concessions at Yosemite National Park. The plaintiff company until recently had the concession rights to run all hotels and other retail services in Yosemite.

The company lost the bidding for renewal of its 15-year contract to another bidder for the project. When that happened, the company sued the Park Service, claiming compensation for the fair market value of its intellectual property consisting of the names of all of the hotels, restaurants and other famous entities operating out of the park. The plaintiff company claimed that it was only fair for it to be compensated for them now that their main use had been usurped.

The Park Service aggressively responded to the lawsuit by changing the names of the Yosemite concessions. That ruffled the feathers of the plaintiff company, Delaware North, which has filed a clever amended complaint chastising the Park Service for changing the names, and calling it an underhanded way of downgrading the value of the plaintiff's property. Delaware North has demanded the sum of $51 million for the fair market value of the trademarked names.

In its amended complaint, the plaintiff notes that is has offered the NPS a royalty-free period where it can use the names pending resolution of the litigation. Delaware North cleverly argues that the license grant gave NPS no need to change the names in order to avoid potential infringement claims, which under close scrutiny is arguably a disingenuous argument by the plaintiff. Most trademark name disputes will not involve this many brands or these novel facts. When a California business does encounter a contract dispute regarding intellectual property rights, it may obtain the guidance and expertise of an experienced commercial law attorney.

Source: sacbee.com, "Park service wrong to change Yosemite names, concessionaire says", Michael Doyle, Jan. 26, 2016

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