Iconic Yosemite Names Restored After Deal in Trademark Dispute

Big Trees Lodge in Yosemite National Park will once again be known as Wawona Hotel following the settlement of a lawsuit between a former park concessionaire and the National Park Service. (William Dotinga / CNS)

(CN) – The historic names of Yosemite landmarks that were changed during an ugly trademark dispute will return to the iconic national park, the federal government announced Monday.

The National Park Service says it’s reached a multimillion-dollar agreement with the park’s old concessionaire for the rights to original names of Yosemite mainstays like Ahwahnee Hotel and Curry Village.

After missing out on a $2 billion vending contract in 2015, Delaware North sued in federal court and claimed it owned the names and logos of properties inside Yosemite National Park. The company, which operated several hotels and businesses within the park for 23 years, argued the government owed it more than $50 million for rights to the trademarks.

As the trademark dispute played out in court, the park service made the unpopular decision in 2016 to change the names of the contested park attractions.

The Ahwahnee Hotel – which has hosted Queen Elizabeth II, John F. Kennedy, Charlie Chaplin and others – became the Majestic Yosemite Hotel and Curry Village was renamed Half Dome Village. Visitors bemoaned the changes and California quickly passed legislation to prevent similar naming controversies at its state parks.

The settlement of a trademark dispute means the return of iconic names to Yosemite National Park locales. (National Park Service)

Thanks to Monday’s settlement, Ahwahnee Hotel, Curry Village, the Wawona Hotel and Badger Pass Ski Area will all be restored. The park service celebrated the announcement on social media by sharing a picture of the old Curry Village sign hanging once again in Yosemite.

“The National Park Service looks forward to the restoration of some of the previous names of the properties at Yosemite, including the Ahwahnee hotel, and the resumed use of other trademarks in connection with concessionaire activities at Yosemite,” the park service said in a statement.

“We’re not messing around,” said Yosemite National Park spokesman Scott Gediman. “Employees and visitors are just thrilled with the return of the signage and names.”

Under the settlement, Delaware North will receive nearly $12 million for the Yosemite trademarks. The federal government will pay around $4 million and an additional $8 million from the park’s current concessionaire Aramark.  In addition, Aramark will transfer the Yosemite trademarks for free to the park service when its contract is up in 2031, preventing a future intellectual property dispute.

Gediman called the settlement fair and forward-thinking, adding it sets a precedent for future naming issues at all national parks.

“We feel good about the settlement,” Gediman said. “Aramark can use the names and they will revert back to the federal government.”

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