The Intellectual Property Issue

Delaware North at Yosemite (“DNCY”) and the National Park Service (“NPS”) disagree about the intellectual property that DNCY used in connection with its operations at Yosemite National Park. Below is a summary of the issues that will provide perspective on this issue.

  • Until 1993, visitor services at Yosemite National Park had been provided by the Yosemite Park & Curry Company (the “Curry Company”) for more than 100 years (both before and after it became a national park).
  • In 1973, the Curry Company was purchased by the MCA, Inc. “(MCA”).
  • In 1993, MCA, and, as a result, the Curry Company, were acquired by a non-U.S. buyer.
  • The Secretary of the Interior objected to a non-U.S. firm operating visitor services in a U.S. national park, so the non-U.S. buyer and MCA agreed to arrange for the sale of the Curry Company to avoid delayed approval of its acquisition of MCA.
  • In 1993, the National Park Service required any bidder, as a condition to becoming the concessioner for visitor services at Yosemite National Park, to buy the Curry Company. By buying the Curry Company, that bidder would become the owner of all of the Curry Company’s assets, including all of its intellectual property.  The bidder was also required to assume all of the Curry Company’s liabilities, including substantial and unknown liabilities for environmental cleanup in Yosemite National Park, along with pension liabilities.
  • DNCY was willing to step up and assist the National Park Service in these unique circumstances. NPS required DNCY to pay $61.5 million (approximately $115 million in today’s dollars) for the Curry Company. That is how DNCY came into ownership of the Curry Company’s intellectual property.
  • Among other intellectual property assets, the Curry Company’s assets included numerous registered trademarks, including the Half Dome logo, “The Ahwahnee,” “Go Climb a Rock” and the Bracebridge Dinner.
  • During DNCY’s time at Yosemite, DNCY further protected and preserved Yosemite trademarks, many of which had been used by Curry Company in Yosemite National Park for decades.
  • The NPS had full knowledge of DNCY’s trademarks and the reasoning for them. In fact, it has been common practice for parks concession companies to protect relevant trademarks for concessions in national parks across the country.
  • The NPS knew of DNCY’s longstanding and open use of the trademarks in Yosemite and elsewhere.
  • DNCY’s contract at Yosemite National Park required that, at the end of its term, DNCY sell to the next concessioner all of the tangible and intangible property DNCY “used or held for use” in its operations at Yosemite, and the NPS is required to make the next concessioner buy DNCY’s property as a condition to a new contract. This includes all of the trademarks and other intellectual property owned by DNCY.
  • In the “Prospectus” for the new Yosemite contract (which is the document the NPS issued to solicit bids for the new contract), the NPS recognized its obligation to have the successor buy DNCY’s intellectual property and intangible property and informed all the offerors that the winner would need to buy this property from DNCY.
  • After selecting Aramark for award of the new contract, the NPS reversed course and said that it would not require Aramark to buy DNCY’s intellectual property as DNCY’s contract requires.
  • This left DNCY no choice but to enforce its contract with the NPS in Court.