What is a name worth?
The National Park Service (NPS) and their concessionaire Aramark for Yosemite National Park have announced they recently settled their trademark dispute with the former concession licensee Delaware North Corp. (DNC) for a mere total over $12 million dollars – for their own names no less!
Wow. Now you know what those specific names are worth. Of course, DNC lawyers had been asking for a lot more money. And yes, DNC had been granted trademark rights in certain special names like Ahwahnee, Wawona, Curry Village and others. And they had helped promote them over the years, but mostly only on merchandising items. So how did they get a claim anyway on names that clearly in practice belong to NPS?
This is what happens when you are asleep at the wheel – especially when dealing with nefarious, greedy partners with lots of money and lawyers. I am not sure how it is supposed to work, but why did the US Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO) not alert NPS in the first case before allowing the filings?
Anyway, I bet many other government agencies got a big wake up call, though some, like US Post Office have been way ahead of the curve for years. If you are starting a mail business of any sort, best you not use any words or images that are even close to present US Post names and symbols. Don’t even bother to check – believe me they have them all carefully and extensively trademarked – especially that flying eagle symbol.
The good news in the Yosemite case is that the public is breathing a big sigh of relief as the park goes back to using most of their iconic and famous names like Ahwahnee, Wawona and Curry Village. Names we grew up with that made such an impression on us, just like this wonderful gem of preserved nature does every day to visitors who come from far and wide. Names we know will be properly preserved forever as the trademarks are now owned by NPS even though they have licensed them to the new Aramark for use during the term of their contract only.
What makes a name iconic?
This big fuss over Yosemite names was played out in the public arena over and over again. I happen to live near Yosemite National Park and many of us refused to use the new names. In fact we found it difficult to explain to visitors so much so that most maps and guides finally printed both names. But it also gives us a great opportunity to learn what makes a good name into a great iconic name that people love and adore.
In many other situations, developers and the public alike might think Grand Majestic Hotel is a great name for a hotel. Or Big Trees Lodge – how appropriate is that! Or Half Dome Campsite. Yes, those were the temporary names for the Ahwahnee, Wawona and Camp Curry respectively. But where is the uniqueness, the emotion, the passion, the connection to the locations?
If you are looking for a name for a new brand that you hope will one day be iconic and worth millions, best you start now by deleting all those common descriptive names and work on something truly unique. Most of us have no idea what Ahwahnee or Wawona means, other than we register them as American Indian words when we think about them. Now you also know why so many iconic brands are named with unique family or place names. Put down the dictionary. The names are not in there – yet!
And, of course, a name is only the short hand for an iconic brand. When experts talk about making such a brand connection they talk about emotional connections to the brand. After all, a brand is a promise of an experience. So to accelerate your iconic brand development, involve all personnel in creating those emotional, practical and consistent brand touch points every day and everywhere your messaging appears.
See What is a Brand and Brand Development for more on this subject.
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