Park City, fervent and frustrated, rallies against trademark
City Hall leaders and a delegation from Vail Resorts met Wednesday afternoon at the Marsac Building to discuss the firm’s polarizing attempt to trademark the name “Park City,” huddling privately inside as a large crowd of demonstrators, fervent and frustrated, rallied in the parking lot against the Colorado-based owner of Park City Mountain Resort.
It was an extraordinary scene under sunny skies as up to 250 people gathered just outside the front door to the building. Many carried signs, some sang protest songs while others appeared to be there to take in the scene of what was one of the largest demonstrations in Park City in years.
The tension about the Vail Resorts’ trademark application, filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, built in recent weeks and reached a crescendo on Wednesday. It was widely publicized that Vail Resorts CEO Rob Katz would lead a delegation to the meeting with Mayor Jack Thomas and other City Hall officials, and a demonstration was organized in advance.
The demonstrators were peaceful. Katz stopped to talk to some of them on his way into the building. The Park City Police Department monitored the crowd. Police tape and barricades were posted to keep a path to the door clear. It was a mixed crowd of longtime Parkites and newcomers to the community. Youngsters held signs alongside people who appeared to push into their 70s.
“It’s a big corporation taking over everything,” said Margaret Wright, a Snyderville Basin resident who held a sign with the message “Don’t de-Vail-ue us.” “We don’t have a voice as regular people.”
Dana Williams, a former three-term mayor of Park City and one of the leading critics of the trademark application, addressed the crowd, saying a “Park City” trademark would be an “affront” to the history of the community.
“This is going just a little too far,” Williams said, urging the demonstrators to “keep up the fight.”
Williams, who is one of the upward of 100 individuals, businesses or governmental entities considering a formal opposition to the trademark application, in an interview described the publicly traded Vail Resorts as desiring to secure the trademark for financial purposes.
“We want to own it. We want to make a profit on what all you have done for 135 years,” Williams said as he described what he sees as the intentions of Vail Resorts.
Another speaker, Greg Friedman, also filed the necessary paperwork indicating he is considering a formal opposition. Friedman owns companies called Park City Audio and Park City Audio Video and is one of the many businesspeople who is concerned that granting a trademark to Vail Resorts for the name “Park City” could impact others that use the name of the city in their moniker.
“It’s in the public domain. Let’s keep it that way,” Friedman said to the crowd.
The Vail Resorts trademark application is narrowly tailored to a mountain resort, and the company has said it would enter into agreements outlining that it will not bring actions against other businesses with “Park City” in their name. Vail Resorts says the trademark is sought to guard against another mountain resort someday opening with the “Park City” moniker. The official name remains Park City Mountain Resort, but the property is marketed as “Park City.”
The trademark efforts, started under a former owner of PCMR, though, have spurred widespread dismay as critics see the application as an example of corporate overreach. The mayor and the Park City Council have attempted to negotiate an agreement with Vail Resorts protecting the other businesses, but a deal has not been reached. The municipal leaders, displeased with the talks, have said they would reconsider a $10 million agreement that would put public monies into a transit hub, garage and related infrastructure at PCMR.
The Patent and Trademark Office has granted City Hall an additional 60 days to consider a formal opposition. It is not clear whether the municipal government will file a formal opposition. That decision could be made shortly as discussions continue with Vail Resorts.
‘An intense meeting’
City Hall officials and the Vail Resorts delegation did not provide detailed comments about the meeting on Wednesday.
The mayor told reporters the sides will continue to consider the specifics of a potential agreement that would be meant to protect the other businesses that use “Park City” in their name.
“It was an intense meeting. I think we have a clearer understanding of where Vail stands with regard to the issues that our community has,” Thomas said afterward inside the Marsac Building, adding, “I think the community is asking for better local protection of businesses and clarity with regard to signage and operation and interaction in the community.”
Thomas said Vail Resorts could attach the word “resort” or the words “mountain resort” to the marketing to resolve the dispute. Vail Resorts indicated it would not do so, he said.
“I said you can simply add one word and clarify the issue here, and their marketing approach and their branding approach doesn’t include that. So I didn’t see any willingness on that part,” Thomas said, describing that there is a “high level of frustration.”
He added: “We’re committed to supporting the community’s perspective and the values of the community and what they think. And we’re not going to back off from that.”
Thomas, City Councilor Andy Beerman and Matt Dias, the assistant city manager, represented the municipal government. Thomas described the tenor inside the meeting.
“It was friendly at times and it was very tense at times . . . serious conversation about our differences, and trying to help them understand the mindset of the community. And I think they have a much better understanding of what the community thinks and feels,” he said.
Katz, accompanied by PCMR Chief Operating Officer Bill Rock and Kristin Kenney Williams, who is the Vail Resorts vice president of mountain community affairs, said little to reporters as he left the Marsac Building. He declined to comment about whether Vail Resorts would withdraw the trademark application, one of the hopes of the opponents. He said the meeting was a “good discussion all around.”
“Excellent feedback, good dialogue. And, you now, we’re going to continue to work together, and this is a terrific relationship and a terrific meeting that we just had. And we look to continue, you know, all the good dialog that we had and appreciate everybody’s feedback,” Katz said.
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Arlene Loble served as the Park City manager in the 1980s, a pivotal period that prepared the community for the boom years that would follow in the 1990s. Loble, who recently died, is credited with introducing a level of professionalism to the municipal government that was needed amid the growth challenges.