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Letters for the Week of January 7, 2015

Readers sound off on Yosemite's location name scandal, Oakland housing, and rising rents


"Hijacking Yosemite," Eco Watch, 12/24

Delaware North Responds

In order to become the concessioner in Yosemite National Park in 1993, DNC Parks & Resorts at Yosemite, Inc. (DNC Yosemite) was required by the National Park Service (NPS) to buy the stock of the previous concessioner, Yosemite Park & Curry Co. (the Curry Company) at a price that was established in advance by the NPS. With this stock purchase, because DNC Yosemite then owned the entirety of the Curry Company, it also became the owner of all the assets, both tangible and intangible, of the Curry Company, and responsible for all of the liabilities of the Curry Company, which the Curry Company had accumulated since its inception in 1899.

The assets purchased included many significant structures, such as The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Lodge, and Curry Village, all of which had been built by the Curry Company with its own capital; operating assets such as the furniture, fixtures, buses, business systems, and other equipment used in the concession operation, all of which were purchased by the Curry Company with its own capital; and intangible assets such as the various registered place names operated under the concession contract, mailing lists, employee data, and policies and procedures, which were also accumulated over the years by the Curry Company. The liabilities that DNC Yosemite became responsible for included all of the operational liabilities associated with the concession operation and unlimited responsibility for the environmental cleanup required for contaminated sites, both numerous known sites that existed at the time and any unknown sites that might be discovered during the contract term.

As part of the concession contract for Yosemite that DNC Yosemite was awarded in connection with its acquisition of the Curry Company (1993 contract), DNC Yosemite waived many rights that existed for concessioners at the time relating to possessory interest (ownership of real property assets, such as The Ahwahnee) and a preferential right of contract renewal. For example, as part of the 1993 contract, DNC Yosemite relinquished title to real property assets owned by the Curry Company, which transferred to DNC Yosemite in the acquisition (The Ahwahnee Hotel, Yosemite Lodge, and Curry Village, etc.) and gave them to the American people over the life of the contract by returning ownership to the NPS. The elimination of these concession rights has now become a part of public law for national park contracts.

The 1993 contract did not provide for similar treatment for non-real property assets such as fixtures, equipment, and intellectual property, and the 1993 contract calls for the current concessioner to be compensated for those assets at values identified in the contract. It is important to note that compensation is to be paid by a successor concessioner, not the American people. What DNC Yosemite is working through with the NPS now is a process to determine the appropriate valuation for those assets under the terms of the 1993 contract.

The NPS has long given recognition to the existence of intellectual property rights in concession contracts, independent of the physical asset associated with a concession operation. Examples include the names "The Ansel Adams Gallery" in Yosemite, "Verkamp's," a shop featuring Native-American made products previously operated in the Grand Canyon, and the logo for the Red Bus Tours in Glacier National Park, which the previous concessioner refused to sell to the successor. This resulted in the development of a new logo by the successor. The difference between the 1993 contract and contracts at Grand Canyon and Glacier National Park is that DNC Yosemite does not have a choice in the matter. At the expiration of the 1993 contract, if a new concessioner is chosen, DNC Yosemite is required to leave all the assets used in the business (furniture, fixtures, equipment and intellectual property) behind, and the successor concessioner — not the NPS or the American people — is required to buy them from DNC Yosemite at various values, as defined in the 1993 contract. That successor concessioner would then have the rights to use those assets in the next contract, with ownership rights in accordance with the terms of the new contract and other laws.

DNC Yosemite is proud of the service and stewardship it has provided in Yosemite National Park through its responsible management over the past twenty-plus years, which has contributed to the value of the assets that are used in its operations. DNC Yosemite is looking forward to the possibility of being awarded the next contract to provide visitor services in Yosemite National Park. In the meantime, DNC Yosemite will continue to work with the NPS to create a clear understanding of its obligations and rights under its 1993 contract.

Jim Stellmack, director of marketing, Delaware North at Yosemite

Delaware North Is Going to Lose

A company hired to manage an already-existing business with an already-existing name is a mere servant that does not develop its own trademark rights in the name of that business — much like those who distribute and sell a product have no right to lay claim to the trademark rights in the name of the product. Moreover, federal trademark registrations only establish a presumption of ownership in what's registered — they are not dispositive on the question. The park service will prevail and our federal government will keep the rights to use those historic names.

Dan Ballard, Carmichael

It's a Kidnapping

Ridiculous and insulting. I would think that as historical landmarks that are an integral component of our national parks, these sites' naming rights should belong to the people, not some corporate pirate trying to kidnap our national treasures.