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Yosemite National Park- A Cautionary Tale

A case in the US caught my eye this week. It involves the Yosemite National Park and a third party contractor who, for over 20 years, provided catering and other services to the park and its famous hotels and restaurants.

The contract went to tender last year and the incumbent lost and then promptly sued the park and the newly appointed service provider for trade mark infringement. The claimant argued that when it first won the contract it paid a significant premium to obtain various trade marks owned by park, including the name of the park itself.

It now values these rights at $51 million and is preventing any other party from using them until this sum is paid. Yosemite is strongly denying the claim. For fuller details see here

Unfortunately the legal outcome won’t be known for some time but it does raise the key issue of Intellectual Property ownership.

When advising clients on contracts with third parties the first question I always asked was ‘who will own the IP?’ It might seem obvious but as Yosemite’s problems highlight, confusion can reign.

Whether you are collaborating to create IP, partnering to promote it or sharing to monetise it, it is crucial the contract is crystal clear on who owns which rights and in what capacity.

Fighting over IP is an expensive business, so don’t get caught out.