Klein & Wilson

Yosemite trademark case a bewildering issue

Most Californians associate the name "Yosemite National Park" with natural beauty. The national park is one of the most well-known and beloved areas in the state, let alone the country. With all of the great trails, beautiful wilderness, and of course the famous Half Dome, there is no doubt that Yosemite National Park is a major part of the state's culture and the national landscape, both literally and figuratively. 

However, a company in New York has actually trademarked the name "Yosemite National Park" and many other names associated with the park. The recent trademark has transformed the park, as it can no longer use many names that visitors have come to know, understand and love.

It's about as upsetting and unromantic a story as you can think of. It seems like a cliched story, one that accentuates how greed has infiltrated the world of intellectual property. From patent trolls to frivolous lawsuits claiming infringement of intellectual property, this has been happening for many years. 

We don't mean to make this seem okay, but in a real sense, the Yosemite National Park case is a legitimate legal issue. The private company does, indeed, have a trademark for "Yosemite National Park," and whether you think that is morally right or not is, unfortunately, irrelevant. This will no doubt be a messy and complicated legal case that will probably drag on for quite some time.

If there is any lesson to learn from this, it is that any business needs to ensure that their names, icons, graphics, logos and other symbols are protected under patent, trademark, copyright and other intellectual property laws.

Source: New York Times, "Bitter Contract Dispute Extends to Who Owns Yosemite Names," Thomas Fuller, March 1, 2016

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