Park City official says ‘Aloha’ to trademark dispute
Aloha Ski & Board Rentals is among the approximately 100 individuals, businesses and governmental entities that are considering mounting a formal challenge to an application by Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts to trademark the name “Park City” as it applies to a mountain resort.
The marketing director for Aloha Ski & Board Rentals, with seven locations in the Park City area, is Becca Gerber, a member of the Park City Council. City Hall itself is also weighing whether to formally oppose the trademark application, putting Gerber in an unusual situation that could eventually raise questions about her impartiality as a City Councilor.
Park City’s elected and appointed officials typically remove themselves from discussions and decisions about matters that could pose a conflict of interest between their municipal service and their employment or their business investments. In many cases, the recusals are clearly defined, such as when someone removes themselves from a discussion regarding a development in which they have a financial or business interest. The situation involving Gerber and Aloha Ski & Board Rentals, though, seems more nuanced than many others.
The Aloha Ski & Board Rentals website is parkcityskirentals.com. There has been widespread concern about the potential impact on other businesses that use the “Park City” moniker if the United States Patent and Trademark Office approves the Vail Resorts application. Vail Resorts has consistently said the trademark application is meant to guard against another mountain resort opening using the name “Park City” and has said it will negotiate agreements outlining that the Colorado-based firm will not bring actions against the many businesses with “Park City” in their name.
In Gerber’s situation, she holds a position of influence within the municipal government as a City Councilor as well as having a director-level role with Aloha Ski & Board Rentals. A decision by the municipal government to pursue a formal opposition to the trademark application could be construed as being beneficial to Aloha Ski & Board Rentals since the chain of ski shops is already on record as one of the entities considering an opposition.
Mayor Jack Thomas and the City Council in June began considering whether City Hall will formally oppose the trademark application. Gerber participated in a City Council meeting on June 9 designed to gather input about the trademark application without disclosing her role with Aloha Ski and Board Rentals. The elected officials did not make detailed comments at the meeting but took extensive testimony that was heavily weighted against the trademark application.
Gerber also did not make a disclosure at a City Council meeting on Thursday as the elected officials received additional input about the trademark application. The mayor and City Council did not discuss the topic on Thursday, however.
In an interview, Gerber said she received legal advice from City Hall prior to participating in the meetings regarding the trademark application and indicated she is an employee at Aloha Ski & Board Rentals rather than an owner. Gerber said she will continue to consult City Hall attorneys as the discussions continue and would recuse herself if it is recommended.
“I haven’t been told it’s a conflict as of yet,” Gerber said.
The input at the meeting on Thursday was limited compared to the comments from the public at the June 9 meeting. Sarah Berry, who is involved in a group called Future Park City that is concerned with the trademark application, told the elected officials an agreement that is under negotiation between City Hall and Vail Resorts centered on the trademark has not been made public. The agreement is expected to formalize in some fashion Vail Resorts’ stand that it will not pursue trademark cases against others with the words “Park City” in their name.
Dana Williams, who served three terms as mayor ending in early 2014 and is a critic of the trademark application, said businesses were not polled about the issue and claimed someone’s employment was threatened after an argument about the trademark application. He did not provide details about the employee, the business or the threat.
“I think these guys just need to be told ‘No,’” Williams said about Vail Resorts.
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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.