Delaware North owner Jeremy Jacobs Sr. has apparently taken a page from Maid of the Mist owner Jimmy Glynn’s playbook.
Friends, the pair provide concessions at Niagara Falls State Park.
Back in 2011, as Glynn was fighting against an open bidding process for his Canadian tour boat concession lease, it was revealed that he had copyrighted the name “Maid of the Mist.” He publicly threatened to take the name with him if he lost.
Today, Jacobs is locked in a similar trademark battle with the US government, a standoff that the National Park Service said has forced it to rename a landmark hotel and other historic sites at Yosemite National Park in California.
A Jacobs company, Delaware North Co. Parks and Resorts at Yosemite, has run lodges, restaurants, and retail outlets at the historic park in California since 1993. After losing the concession contract last year, the company sued, seeking compensation for what it says is $51 million of intellectual property, including trademarks on everything from ski and golf areas to the Yosemite National Park name itself.
Federal attorneys have valued the intellectual property at about $3.5 million, and said that DNC Parks’ estimate “grossly exaggerated and improper.”
But the National Park Service is concerned that the dispute could prevent it from using the names when the contract is turned over to the new concession operator, Aramark, on March 1.
That concern prompted Yosemite National Park Superintendent Don Neubacher to announce last week that he is changing the names of some well-known facilities at the park, including the famed Ahwahnee Hotel, which was built in 1927.
Scott Gediman, a spokesman for Yosemite, said the park would change the names to avoid liability or the potential for closures as a result of the ongoing court battle.
“This is not something we did willingly,” said Gediman, noting that the government was fighting to reclaim the old names in hopes that they someday will be restored.
While DNC Parks inherited some of the trademarks when it won the Yosemite contact back in the 1993, it registered others in ensuing years without the government’s knowledge, according to Gediman.
“They did it all quietly and they did not inform us,” he said.
But Todd Merry, chief marketing officer for Delaware North, DNC Parks’ parent company, said the suggestion of underhandedness “completely misrepresents” the company’s actions.
“We didn’t wake up in 2012 and say let’s trademark the hotel,” he said. “We bought the trademark when we bought the company.”
According to its lawsuit, DNC Parks was required to purchase the assets of its predecessor, Curry Co., when it won the Yosemite contract. The lawsuit claims the park service awarded Aramark the new contract without the same requirement.
Delaware North also has concession contracts for nine other national parks, including Yellowstone and Grand Canyon.
The company is claiming that the names of many historic sites within the park actually belong to them, not to the American people. Places such as Curry Village, Ahwahnee Lodge, Wawona Hotel, and the popular Half Dome logo. Delaware North is even claiming that the name Yosemite National Park belongs to them.
Many in the public are outraged.
“It would totally change the experience to visit Yosemite without these names,” Jeanne O’Neil, who has visited the park annually for 36 years, told the Los Angeles Times. “I would expect this decision to create a huge public outcry.”
Julie Mastrine, a 24-year-old activist at Care2, a San Francisco technology company that is hosting a petition urging Delaware North to drop its claim to the names, agreed.
“Yosemite is an iconic public asset. Its names exist in people’s hearts,” she said. “It’s preposterous that anyone can claim to own them.”
Niagara Falls Reporter Publisher Frank Parlato voiced similar sintiments when Glynn laid claim to the Maid of the Mist name.
“The name “Maid of the Mist” has been in use continuously at the Niagara Parks since 1885, long before Glynn started using it,” Parlato wrote. “For him to claim the name is outrageous.”
Parlato pointed out that the first boat named Maid of the Mist was launched in 1846. It was not a tour boat, but a ferry service between Canada and America. It was not operated by Glynn’s company or Glynn’s ancestors.
By 1854, the ferry boat became a tourist attraction, after the opening of the Whirlpool Rapids Bridge. This lasted seven years before it ceased operations in 1861.
There were no boat tours for 34 years, until 1895, nine years after the state park opened. These boats were also called Maid of the Mist. Various owners operated these boats, always calling them Maid of the Mist.
Glynn’s “Maid of the Mist Steamboat Co. Ltd.” was formed in 1971, when Glynn bought the assets, including two boats of the former, similarly named Maid of the Mist boat company.
In 1993, however, Glynn moved to take the name away from the people. He filed a U. S. trademark application stating (as is required for trademark) that he had sole and exclusive use of the name. He signed a U. S. trademark application falsely stating he had sole and exclusive use of the name, four years after he signed a lease with Ontario that stated he did not “claim any interest in or rights in the words “Maid of the Mist.’”
The Delaware North trademarking case in Yosemite won national attention last week when an article published by Outside magazine prompted the Sierra Club to launch a campaign Fridaydemanding that DNC withdraw its lawsuit.
The club encouraged its 2.4 million members and supporters to write to Jacobs personally to tell him to drop the litigation, calling the case an instance of corporate greed by a company that is already benefiting from a lucrative public contract.
“These are public assets, names that belong to all Americans,” said Dan Chu, a senior director at Sierra Club. “It is petty that having already made billions of dollars from selling food, merchandise, and lodging at our national parks to millions of visitors, Delaware North is essentially extorting taxpayers to allow Americans to keep what we already own.”