News Articles

Excerpted from Sacramento Bee
February 22, 2016

Assembly Bill 2249 prohibits contracts with companies that pursue trademarks at state parks

Follows ongoing controversy over ownership of names for some of Yosemite’s most famous sites

Assemblyman Ken Cooley: ‘I just find it shocking’

Assemblyman Ken Cooley is pursuing a bill that would ban concessionaires at state parks if they trademark iconic names.

Comparing the Yosemite renaming controversy to a punch in the gut, Assemblyman Ken Cooley on Monday announced a bill that would prohibit California from contracting with concessionaires who attempt to trademark names associated with a state park.

Assembly Bill 2249 would ban state park concessions contracts that provide ownership of any names and disqualify companies that pursue trademarks from bidding again in the future.

The historic Ahwahnee Hotel lit up as dusk falls over Yosemite Valley.John Walker The Fresno Bee

Cooley, D-Rancho Cordova, said attempting to claim ownership of historic California names that precede their contract would demonstrate that a company is not a fit partner for the state.

“It’s our treasured heritage,” he said.

The bill follows a high-profile dispute between the National Park Service and the former concessionaire at Yosemite National Park over some of the park’s most famous sites.

The concessions company, formerly known as DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite Inc., has filed a lawsuit seeking compensation for trademarks it placed on The Ahwahnee hotel, Curry Village, Badger Pass Ski Area and other beloved Yosemite attractions. DNC lost is contract with the park last fall and is asking the new concessionaire to pay $51 million for its intellectual property.

In response, the National Park Service announced last month that it would change the names – The Ahwahnee would become The Majestic Yosemite Hotel, for example, and Curry Village would become Half Dome Village – prompting a massive public outcry.

AB 2249 will not affect the Yosemite situation, which is a federal matter, but Cooley hopes the bill can send a message to Buffalo, New York-based Delaware North, DNC’s parent corporation, which he said has operated concessions at some California state parks in the past.

“I just find it shocking that somehow we had an agreement that evidently gave legal standing to any company, doesn’t matter who they are, to trademark these cultural sites,” he said.