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Vail Should Give Up the Park City Trademark Fight

It’s pretty simple. Vail needs to give up the Park City trademark fight. It’s not because of the public pressure on Vail, with over 100 businesses contesting its trademark. It’s not the “concern” over a boycott of the Epic Pass by Utah locals. It’s not that former mayor Dana Williams has come out of the woodwork and decided to put his name behind the opposition. It’s no other reason, than it’s the right thing to do.

We at the Park Rag were one of the first people to talk about the Park City Trademark issue this January. We recently updated our website parkcitysucks.com, with our current analysis. The shortened version is… Vail probably has better lawyers, but this fight is in the court of public opinion. Given the arguments Vail has been making, they are going to lose…at least in the court of public opinion. Their argument seems to boil down to something like “we’ll allow any use of the Park City name as long as it isn’t used in conjunction with a ski resort.” The problem is that you can’t ALLOW what isn’t fundamentally yours to dictate. The name Park City is fundamentally all of ours, and not a corporation’s. Vail shouldn’t get to choose.

That said, Vail should not be misconstrued as a bad actor. They purchased the Park City trademark application from POWDR Corp (if you hate Vail for this trademark issue, you should doubly hate POWDR Corp and their owners, the Cumming family, for starting it). Vail bought an asset from POWDR and that asset is worthless unless they defend it. If any of us were in their shoes we may very well make the same decisions they have made.

So, Vail is in a pickle. What do they do?

However, Park City is too. Don’t forget that Vail makes many sizable donations that benefit most of us in Park City.

The fact is that we are all in this together. Vail would have you believe that the world knows PCMR and (The) Canyons as “Park City” and if they ever refer to it as anything other than that and the MTN stock will crash to $99.9 per share. Residents of Park City say, “we’ve always referred to the resort serviced by the town lift as PCMR”… but in reality just a few years back it was commonly called just Park City.

So, it’s a mess. But, what’s the right thing to do? What meets everyone’s needs?

It’s pretty obvious that the term Park City Mountain Resort is the right term for Vail to use.

If you live in Boca Raton, and you hear Park City Mountain Resort, where/what do you think that is? Yep, a ski resort in Park City.

If you live in Park City and hear the term, Park City Mountain Resort, what do you think it is? A ski resort in Park City.

In neither example does anyone mistake the town for the resort.

Park City Mountain Resort is the right term.
Park City Mountain Resort is the right term.
Park City Mountain Resort is the right term.
Park City Mountain Resort is the right term.
Park City Mountain Resort is the right term.

Anything more than that, pushed by Vail, will meet opposition. If so, Vail should expect a boycott of their Epic Pass from locals. Park City residents generally have the time, means, and demeanor to protest what they don’t like. It appears that the term “Park City” is one of those things.

So, how can Vail get out of this mess? As we’ve said before, they need to find a way to endow the name Park City to the town while protecting their use of the name Park City in relation to their resort. They need an arrangement that will ensure that everyone can use the name Park City. If a local wants to start a business called Park City cross country skiing, they should be able to do that. If a local wants to open Park City Ski Shop they should be able to.

Perhaps Vail turns the trademark over to Park City and Park City grants a set of rights back to Vail for the use of the term Park City. That would be the right thing to do.

Yet, it becomes even more of a mess when you factor in the officially granted Utah business names using the words Park City in conjunction with winter sports.

  • PARK CITY NORDIC BETTIES SKI EDUCATION LLC
  • PARK CITY POWDER CATS & HELI-SKI, LLC
  • PARK CITY SKI & SUN
  • PARK CITY SKI BOOT LLC
  • PARK CITY SKI CHALETS LLC
  • PARK CITY SKI EDUCATIONAL FOUNDATION
  • PARK CITY SKI HOLIDAYS
  • PARK CITY SKI PLACES, LLC
  • PARK CITY SKI SCHOOL REUNION

And that’s like 10% of the listings. It’s unlikely Vail could continue to enforce this trademark, based on the public backlash of impacting so many companies. Of course most of those names in the list above likely are grandfathered, and can’t be touched by Vail. However, if it’s any indication of the frequency of using the words Park City along with ski, there are many people who want to do that.

Truly Vail is in an uphill battle.

We hope Vail comes to their senses soon and use their +5 magic to get them out. They are smart. We believe they just need to realize that the current path will not work and hope they decide to move in another direction.

Otherwise, it’s about to get really ugly.

 

 

 

 

Comments

5 Comments

Avatar
John Rex

Does Vail really need the locals of PC for their success? Not for sales of their lift passes. The majority of those sales come from outside of PC residents, and those purchasers really don’t care about some local tiff. Not for employees. Most of those also come from outside of PC and are seasonal. (And paid low wages.) The truth is that Vail is in the business of economic extraction. It’s the new version of the big mining company to run the town. All of the profits extracted here are exported far away to their executives and shareholders, never to be seen in PC, except for the trickle down of Vail Promise PR money shots to assuage/silence this fact. Meanwhile all of the impacts from the generation of those profits are foisted on the PC residents. Overburdening the existing transportation system to increase their visitors/profits is a huge item. Do you think Vail plans to pay to fix that? Hell No. They will lobby the politicians to spend taxpayer dollars to benefit them. (Mountain Accord is one vehicle created for that.) There is a point where overcrowding and overuse destroy the community and environment. Do you think Vail cares about that? Hell No. Vail’s position on the trademark issue is totally consistent with their business model. It’s corporate America’s MO: Socialize the losses, privatize the profits. God Bless America, and Fuck everybody else.

Avatar
Parkrag

John-

You make good points. Vail, like many publicly traded companies thrives on making money and profits.

However, I disagree on how locals can impact Vail. I have spent more time listening to more Vail earnings reports than I probably should have. I imagine an investment banker asking the question of how a local boycott of the Epic Pass will impact season pass sales. I imagine the investment banker asking why Epic pass sales are flat or down. I imagine the investment banker asking about the impact to the brand.

Are the impacts real or just “possible.” I’m not sure it matters.

I also see how the local could impact visitors’ decisions. If people cared enough, they could protest at the base of PCMR and Canyons, near the parking lots. A few “If you want to come back to Park City, Don’t Let Vail Destroy it” signs carried by locals likely impact the resort. Then you have the standard questions that we all get asked on a lift… “Where should I ski tomorrow?” The answer is “Deer Valley if you want luxury. Solitude if you want the place to yourself. Snowbird if you want adventure.” Then they may say, “What about Park City? I heard it’s the largest resort in North America!” You may then say, “I guess you could ski there if you really want to but I wouldn’t.”

Who knows how it really plays out, but locals could impact Vail if they cared enough.

Avatar
Shawn

Again, another very well-written piece on this issue. That said, a couple comments from someone who’s been in town for a few years: I doubt any resident of Park City of 5+ years would have made many of the decisions Vail has had we been in their shoes. Second, our non-profits were doing just fine before Vail’s donations, and would continue to do so with or without Vail’s money — the money they poured into the resort was great, and they deserve kudos for that (even though I think they should’ve kept PCMR and TC separate yet linked, a la Whistler-Blackcomb). Third, I could be wrong or in a bubble but I don’t recall the resort ever being referred to simply at Park City (aside from someone asking if I’m skiing DV or PC) — ‘Park City’ was always reserved for the town itself and/or the City (in regard to city business, such as the Council or Mayor). Regardless, it appears to boil down to the fact that Vail simply has a total disregard of the community’s public opinion, the same community in which it’s attempting to endear itself to — poorly, I might add. Overall, great write-up and spot on — thanks.

Avatar
Parkrag

Hi Shawn-

Thanks for the comments.

On the donations, I have heard (but not confirmed) that Vail donates a sizable amount of money to PC ED, which then pays for a sizable amount of Pre-K schooling. I could be wrong on that, but that was what I was hinting at.

As for the money they “invested” into the resort. I always that was BS (and agree with you). Do I ski Canyons any differently than I did two years ago… no. Most additions seems to benefit Vail, which is fine. Just don’t try to sell me on them as a benefit to me. The hamburger now costs $15+.

On the Park City as the name for the resort… I deferred to my wife, who grew up around here. She had mentioned that “back in the day” it was referred to as Park City. In the 11 years I have been around, it’s been PCMR. So, I’m not sure on that one.

I completely agree about the disregard for the community. It seems like Vail bought something that they think has a lot of value (the name “Park City”) and they want to appear like they are listening to the community, but when the rubber hit the road, they have bristled. Their true stripes have shown.

This should be interesting to watch play out. I think Park City (the town) is different than many places Vail may have encountered. It seems people here have grown up always being on the outside (i.e. from traditional Utah) and they don’t conform easily. How does Vail play that?

Avatar
Rich Wyman

My wife owns the PARK CITY YOGA STUDIO. I have been called PARK CITY’S OWN PIANO MAN. Should we be frightened? NO. Neither should Vail. They should just give it up. Will they? That is up to them. BUT then there will be a fight!!!


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