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Calif. State Parks Now|Trademark-Free Zones

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (CN) — Moving to prevent embarrassing trademark disputes such as the one the feds are fighting with a former Yosemite National Park vendor, Gov. Jerry Brown on Wednesday approved a bill barring concessionaires from claiming trademarks at California state parks.

Brown inked Assembly Bill 2249 after the proposal cleared the Legislature unanimously in August. The bill takes effect in January.

The measure by Assemblyman Ken Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, is aimed at avoiding controversies like the battle between former Yosemite concessionaire Delaware North and the federal government, which resulted in the National Park Service changing the names of several of the majestic park's attractions.

After operating several hotels within Yosemite National Park for more than 23 years, Delaware North failed to secure a new $2 billion vending contract with the government in 2015 and quickly sued for breach of contract. Formerly known as DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, the corporation claims it's owed $51 million because it trademarked longstanding Yosemite names like Curry Village and the Wawona Hotel.

No agreement has been reached in the case, which is likely headed to trial.

Under the California Heritage Protection Act, vendors won't be allowed to claim trademark rights over anything related to California's 280 state parks.

Vendors will also be disqualified from future state contracts if they attempt to trademark names associated with a state park. Furthermore, they can be liable for the state's attorney's fees if a trademark dispute is tried in court.

While the bill won't impact the changes in Yosemite, it would prevent similar situations in historic California parks like Big Basin Redwoods or the Tahoe State Recreation Area.

Cooley and several other California lawmakers have urged other states to consider similar legislation.

"We in California were blindsided by this trademarking practice, and that could easily happen in another state," Cooley in a statement said. "We want legislators around the country to be aware of what happened here and show them what we've done to combat it."

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