Did you know that Vail has filed a trademark application for the term “Park City” in relation to “Providing facilities for skiing, snowboarding, mountain biking, hiking, alpine slide, mini-golf and horseback riding, and conducting classes and instruction in skiing and snowboarding and providing rental of skiing and snowboarding equipment; resort services, namely, entertainment in the nature of ski and snowboard races and conducting entertainment exhibitions in the nature of sporting events and musical concerts; resort lodging services.”
Vail would own the name Park City in conjunction with almost anything people in Park City care about including skiing, mountain biking, hiking, horseback riding, ski rental, resort services, and lodging.
Next question, “How did this happen?”
First, let’s get a few things out of the way. First, this site is owned and operated by the Park Rag and is not affiliated with Park City or Vail Resorts. Second, We don’t really think Park City sucks. We don’t think Park City (the city) Sucks. We don't think Park City (the resort) sucks. We don’t even think Vail Sucks. What we think sucks is the choice, by Vail, to use both the name Park City for its resort here and if they enforce their trademark of “Park City.”
So, back to the question, “How did this happen?” It appears our friends at The Greater Park City Company (AKA Talisker) filed a trademark application for “Park City” in early 2014 and then assigned that to our friends at Vail later that year. So back when this was happening in early 2014, it wasn’t that our city couldn’t stand up to the big boys at Vail; it was something else. So what was it? Why did a ski resort, who should be a partner, try to trademark our city's name?
Was Park City Municipal unaware that this was happening? Did no one on the city council ever hear about his? Did the Chamber of Commerce not see this coming? Or were any or all these groups aware but they decided not to fight it. We don’t have the answer for that.
What we know is that if Vail succeeds in trademarking the name it is a big screw up; perhaps one of the biggest in recent memory (maybe on par with that certain ski resort that forgot to mail in its lease renewal).
The problem is that there's confusion over the name. Even in the local paper, The Park Record, you’ll see the word Park City and it's often not clear whether it is speaking of the resort or the town.
For example, if we write…
Park City sucks
Park City parking is terrible
Park City restaurants are bad
Park City hotels are overpriced
Park City snow is the worst
Park City people are rude
… are we referring to the city, the resort, or both? Our beloved city is now inextricably linked to a ski resort. The fact that Vail (the city) and Vail (the resort) share the same name is not lost on us. However, in Park City’s case, the city was around 150 years before the newly-named resort was even a glimmer in Robert Katz’s eyes.
This even becomes more of an issue with events that have defined Park City (the city) for years. Imagine in ten years someone saying to their friend “Park City is the host of the Sundance Film Festival” and their friend replies, “I didn’t know the film festival was at a ski resort.” It’s much like if we said, the “Vail Food and Wine Classic is coming up in May.” Are you thinking the wine will be served in the city of Vail? Most people would associate that statement with the ski resort.
The thing about patents and trademarks is that they need to be defended, or they are no longer valid. Coca Cola can’t sit idly by and let 100 other soft drink manufacturers use the name Coke, or their claim over the trademark disappears.
The same is likely true with a trademark for “Park City.” That trademark would cover a lot of ground. Let’s say you grew up in Park City, were a budding entrepreneur and wanted to open a ski shop. Do you think you could call it “Park City Ski Shop?” Unlikely. Perhaps you want to do something with lodging. Do you think you could trademark Park City Lodging? Oh, that’s a bad example, that trademark request is already being challenged by a subsidiary of Vail Resorts. Could you open “Park City Mini Golf.” Not likely, they own “mini golf” too. If you were into music, could you bring in bands around the world for the “Park City Music Fest?” Looks like conducting musical concerts is defined as part of trademark, as well. We could go on and on, but you get the idea.
Of course, we wouldn’t want to speak for Vail and what they would or wouldn’t legally do. That’s up to them, but they would own the trademark. We’ve always contended that they are the “smartest guys in the room” and we say that in an admiring way. Their acquisition of the trademark could, in the end, be huge for the company. We would call that savvy.
Yet, that doesn’t make it right. It’s not right for our town. It’s probably not right for our people. It’s likely not even right for Vail. At some point that confusion, in some way, will likely come back to haunt them.
We at the Park Rag are pretty much powerless, except to make commentary, criticism, and point out the issue. About all we can do is host this web page and hope that people read it. You may have noticed at the top of the page, we have exercised our fair use rights to combine the Park City Municipal logo with the Park City (ski resort) logo. They actually go very well together (maybe too well). We think this parody is a nice looking logo and would at least ask Park City, the city, to make it easy on all of us and just adopt new the logo (kidding). Perhaps they could go one step further, and just become a wholly owned subsidiary of Vail Mountain Resorts (even more kidding).
We are under no illusion that Vail needs to do anything, but we hope they will consider doing two things for the sake of our joint community. First, we’d like them to rename their resort. There are so many good options that still contain the words Park City that could do the resort justice. Second, we would like them to use their braintrust to find a way to turn their trademark application over to the public domain. It’s not enough just to disown it, as someone else will come in and pick it up. However, if the name could be protected but made available for anyone to use it (in perpetuity), it would be a grand gesture to the people of Park City.
Again, we love Park City. It’s a great place to live. It’s a great place to raise children. It’s almost perfect. Vail’s decision to use the words “Park City” for its resort are confusing and tarnishes the city. Vail’s trademark over the name Park City, and its ability to control its use in a number of areas, is somewhat chilling. We hope they’ll make a good decision for everyone involved and both rename the resort and set their trademark free.
Update: a reader pointed out that Vail has not been granted a patent on their application by the USPTO and it is still in progress. This page has been changed to reflect that and make it more clear. I believe the points of this article stands and perhaps it's more important that we work as a community to try and convince Vail to do the right thing.
Note: This website has been created and is managed by Park Rag LLC. It is not affiliated with Park City Municipal, Park City, or Vail Resorts.