Editorial: Vail should heed City Hall and citizen concerns over trademark
July 12, 2016
Parkites, led by former Mayor Dana Williams, are planning a protest at City Hall today, Wednesday, July 13. The demonstration is timed to coincide with a closed-door meeting between City leaders and executives from Park City Mountain Resort owner Vail Resorts regarding the company's effort to trademark the term Park City, and while we newsmongers love the idea of a dramatic showdown, we are actually hoping this event turns into more of a meeting of the minds than a bitter stalemate.
The issue at hand is whether the town's identity would be diminished if Vail Resort's application to trademark the name "Park City" is approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Williams, current city officials, and many citizens are worried that it would be. Chiefly, they fear that if the trademark is OK'd, businesses currently using the name Park City might be forced to change their existing brands. Some also believe that identifying the resort simply as "Park City" would be confusing to visitors.
Their concerns are valid. Given Vail Resorts' mighty marketing power and influence, Park City (the resort) could begin to outrank Park City (the town) in people's minds and on search engines around the globe if the two are too closely identified. City officials say there is plenty of anecdotal evidence of Vail's overreach in other ski towns where it operates.
Then again, the shared name could lend an additional sheen to both entities. The key is in clearly defining the trademark's limits (i.e. only as it pertains to another ski resort) and in crafting a legal document protecting the right of other local businesses to use "Park City" in their own names.
According to city officials, though, Vail Resorts has been reluctant to put those assurances in writing, raising concerns and lowering the level of trust that Vail will, as they have promised verbally, not go after local businesses using the words "Park City."
Tomorrow's meeting could put the issue to rest if city leaders and Vail Resorts' execs hammer out a legally binding agreement to attach to its trademark application. And when they do, we'd suggest that Vail CEO Rob Katz and Mayor Jack Thomas – who has been very vocal in opposing the trademark – step out of their closed door session and into the sunlight to meet with the protestors and talk about what is really at the heart of the issue: Park City's future as a unique town, inhabited by a passionate citizenry and also a stellar resort.
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Then we can all celebrate the good fortune that has befallen both Park City and Vail Resorts at Park City Brewery.