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DNCY Responds To Outrage Over Yosemite Trademark Dispute

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Yosemite, CA — The outgoing concessionaire at Yosemite National Park is responding to the dispute over renaming several historic buildings in the park.

We first reported last week that several of Yosemite’s iconic structures will have new names, effective March 1st, because of a legal dispute between the park and its outgoing concessionaire DNC Parks and Resorts at Yosemite (DNCY). It has created outrage with many supporters of Yosemite National Park. There are multiple online petition drives underway in opposition to the move. One such effort was spearheaded by former Tuolumne County Supervisor Laurie Sylwester, and as of 11:30am today, it has collected over 5,750 signatures. She was this morning’s KVML Newsmaker of the Day, and you can hear the interview by clicking here. 

DNCY has received heavy criticism over the past week, and there has been some public pressure to drop the lawsuit. The company has released a list of bullet points designed to clarify its stance on the names, and the ongoing dispute. You can read it below:

·        The NPS in 1993 required DNCY, as the new concessionaire at Yosemite, to purchase the assets of the previous concessionaire, including its intellectual property, at a cost of $115 million in today’s dollars along with the assumption of $40 million in liabilities.

·        That included several valuable trademarked names such as The Ahwahnee. In turn, the DNCY contract requires the NPS to have the new concessionaire buy all of DNCY’s property, including its intellectual property. The NPS recently reaffirmed this in a December 29, 2015 letter from the U.S. Department of the Interior (retracting NPS’s earlier position that intellectual property was not included).

·        DNCY has not “grossly overvalued” the trademarks. DNCY had two independent appraisals of the intellectual property – which includes trademarked names, websites and customer databases – performed by reputable third-party experts. The valuation results of those separate appraisals are very similar. Again, it should be noted the intellectual property represented a portion of the property purchased by DNCY for $115 million in today’s dollars. 

·        Months prior to the bid submission deadline, DNCY shared its appraisals with NPS. After NPS disputed DNCY’s appraisals and failed to share its own appraisal, DNCY offered to enter binding arbitration to set a fair value for the intellectual property.  DNCY also repeatedly offered to allow NPS to meet independently with DNCY’s appraisers so NPS would understand the appraisal methodologies. NPS refused. Only after being ignored and then rebuffed, DNCY filed a protest with the federal Government Accountability Office requesting that NPS work with DNCY to reach a fair value to include in the bidding prospectus.

·        It is common practice for concessionaires to use trademarks at federal locations. This is done to safeguard the treasured names, words and symbols from improper use by entities not under contract with the government. The NPS is well aware of this, having required DNCY to purchase trademarks from the previous concessionaire in 1993.  NPS also knew that DNCY registered additional trademarks because the government accepted DNCY’s trademark registration applications.

A couple of other relevant points around this topic:

·        The National Park Service has repeatedly flip-flopped on the issue of intellectual property. During the RFP process, it at first completely ignored the issue. Then in December 2014 NPS notified all potential bidders that the new concessionaire would be required to purchase the intangible assets of the existing concessionaire, DNCY.  Then, after more than eight months and after selecting Aramark for the award, in August 2015 NPS sent a letter to DNCY stating that it had decided that it wouldn’t require the winning bidder to purchase the intangible assets. Four months later on December 29, 2015 (and after DNCY commenced litigation over the issue), NPS retracted its August, 2015 letter and reaffirmed that the winning bidder must purchase intangible assets such as trademarks, customer database, and domain names from DNCY.

·        DNCY hopes NPS and the new concessionaire will not change the names of historic places or venues at Yosemite National Park. We purchased these trademarks when we commenced our work in 1993, as required by our contract with NPS, and our only interest is selling them on to the new concessionaire for fair value, a requirement NPS is obligated to enforce. That is why we have offered to license these trademarks, free of any charge, to NPS to avoid any name changes or impact on the park visitor experience while the disagreement between DNCY and NPS heads toward resolution in the courts.

In summary, all we want in this is fair and just treatment from the National Park Service and for it to follow the letter of our contract. We fulfilled our obligations in 1993, we have been proud and exemplary stewards of Yosemite National Park for the last 22 years, and we have demonstrated our genuine desire to resolve this matter for the last 18 months.

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