Park City mayor ‘disappointed’ with Vail Resorts’ latest letter

Park City mayor ‘disappointed’ with Vail Resorts’ latest letter

Over the past couple of months, we’ve reported on Vail Resorts’ attempt to trademark the term “Park City” and the resulting controversy in the local community. Up until this point, that trademark process has been criticized mainly by Park City businesses and citizens. Now, however, city officials are getting involved—namely Park City Mayor Jack Thomas.

To understand this plot twist, we need to go back a few days—to Tuesday—when the COO of Park City Mountain Resort, Bill Rock, wrote a letter to Thomas and members of the Park City Council. Park City Mountain Resort is owned by Vail Resorts, so Rock felt the need to reach out to Thomas and explain Vail Resorts’ intentions, as well as their frustrations.

In the letter, Rock wrote that, “We are not willing to withdraw or amend our application, and to our knowledge the City has never asked any other business in our community to voluntarily give up or change its trademark applications.” Furthermore, Rock explained that, “There is often talk in the community about ‘trust.’ Our Company expects to earn the trust of the Park City community by how we act, day-in and day-out, and we think we have demonstrated a strong track record on that front in the short time we have been here.”

ParkCity_Letters_Featured

The quaint town of Park City is receiving more-than-average attention right now. Photo courtesy of Park City Chamber/Convention & Visitors Bureau.

Rock’s letter did not please Thomas, prompting him to write a letter of his own that was addressed to the entire Park City community. In that letter, he wrote that he is “disappointed” and that, “Vail balked, essentially saying just ‘trust us’ and we ‘will consider’ your concerns down the road. Well that just isn’t good enough.”

Thomas went on, saying, “Park City previously obtained an extension until July 9th, 2016 to file an opposition to the trademark application for the word mark ‘Park City’ by VR CPC Holdings, Inc. (“Vail Resorts”). The City intends to file for another 60 day extension this week. I hope the additional time allows both sides to continue to work towards a reasonable solution.”

Read the full letters, below, from both Rock and Thomas.


Park City Mountain Resort COO Bill Rock’s letter to Park City Mayor Jack Thomas and members of the Park City Council:

 

To the Honorable Mayor and Members of Park City Council:

Our Company embraces doing everything we can to work through community issues. We would have to admit that this is the first time we have found ourselves in a community dialogue over a trademark application. While there is an established regulatory process for working through trademark registration issues, we have nonetheless made every effort to respond to community concerns. Before turning to that, I think it’s important to remember how the dialogue started.

After purchasing the resort, we inherited Powdr Corp’s application for the word mark PARK CITY. In response to your concerns over the breadth of the application, we chose to amend and narrow the services associated with the application to “[p]roviding facilities for skiing and snowboarding, and conducting classes and instruction in skiing and snowboarding.” We seek federal registration to enhance protection of our rights in the PARK CITY brand for those services. Specifically, we wish to ensure that no other ski area in the United States calls itself “Park City,” and that no other business falsely represents or suggests that it is affiliated with or connected to our Park City ski area.

Several of you have asked why we are moving forward with the PARK CITY trademark registration. Why not just rely on a registration for “Park City Mountain Resort”? First of all, this is not a new trademark. The PARK CITY mark has been in use by our predecessors for decades. Because of that history of use, guests from around the United States and around the world refer to the ski area as just “Park City” and allowing others to use “Park City” for a ski area would create confusion and detract from the uniqueness of our resort and our community.

It is important to point out that there are multiple local business owners who have also registered their “Park City” brands, including Park City Brewery who has three separate word mark registrations for PARK CITY for beer, distilled spirits, and distillery services. There are also registered trademarks for many other ski areas that share names with their towns, such as Vail, Breckenridge, Telluride, Sun Valley, and Killington, to name a few. Further, there is no history of our Company, or any of these “town-branded” resorts, trying to prevent other businesses from using the names of their towns descriptively or in their trade names for unrelated goods or services.

It is very common that when someone files for a trademark, other businesses raise concerns and objections. And it is very common for businesses to work together to resolve those issues and if they can’t, there is a process with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) for them to weigh in. Our Company has been and will remain open to working with any business who feels our application creates any issues for them. And we very much respect the right of any other business, community member or Park City Municipal Corp. to file objections with the PTO. But, we are not willing to withdraw or amend our application, and to our knowledge the City has never asked any other business in our community to voluntarily give up or change its trademark applications.

Likewise, we think it’s important for the City to respect the branding rights of all local businesses, including our Company. Because our guests have always referred to our ski resort as just “Park City,” we have elected to shift our branding to just that name. We think it’s a simpler, cleaner and more powerful approach to attract guests from around the world to our community. However, we have also heard that using just “Park City” could be confusing locally and we have offered to work with the City in good faith to address these concerns. It’s critical that this be a sincere effort, based on cooperation and as real-world situations arise. But it is not appropriate for the City to expect to have legal rights over our branding.

There is often talk in the community about “trust.” Our Company expects to earn the trust of the Park City community by how we act, day-in and day-out, and we think we have demonstrated a strong track record on that front in the short time we have been here. We expect the community to continue to hold us accountable. And we don’t expect any special treatment or special favors. But, we also expect to be treated fairly, where our rights are respected as well. We are very confident that our use of the “Park City” brand will be completely appropriate, consistent and aligned with the rest of our community. And we look forward to earning trust on this issue as well.

Sincerely,

Bill Rock

COO, Park City Mountain Resort


Park City Mayor Jack Thomas’ letter to the Park City community:

 

Dear Community,

I am disappointed with the letter received from Park City Mountain Resort COO Bill Rock regarding the ski area’s unwillingness to honor their public statements by putting real commitments into a real agreement. The City Council directed our attorneys to simply convert what we heard first hand and publically from Vail into a binding agreement. No more. No less. And Vail balked, essentially saying just ‘trust us’ and we ‘will consider’ your concerns down the road. Well that just isn’t good enough. Park City sought to simply memorialize Vail’s commitments to: 1) not oppose existing municipal and local business use of “Park City”; 2) allow third parties legal protections in the future to also use “Park City”; and 3) eliminate confusion with existing municipal and local business signage, advertising and other co-existence uses. In return, Park City would not opposed the trademark application and affirmatively allow continued national and international use of the new “Park City” brand.

Park City previously obtained an extension until July 9th, 2016 to file an opposition to the trademark application for the word mark “Park City” by VR CPC Holdings, Inc. (“Vail Resorts”). The City intends to file for another 60 day extension this week. I hope the additional time allows both side to continue to work towards a reasonable solution. However, the City will continue to prepare its formal opposition to the application. This narrowing of the mark from “Park City Mountain Resort “ to “Park City” is a new brand for a new product which culminated from combining two previously distinct ski resorts, and everyone knows it. If progress does not continue towards an agreement, I intend to ask the City Council at the July 28th City Council meeting whether the City should continue talks regarding potential collaborative projects in the Lower Park Avenue Redevelopment Area and ski resort planning projects including the Park City Mountain Resort/Vail Master Plan. Park City previously had entered into a Letter of Intent with the prior owners of the Park City Mountain Resort regarding the possible contribution of RDA funds in potential projects involving parking, transportation and affordable housing.

The draft agreement proposed by Park City can be viewed at www.parkcity.org

Mayor Jack Thomas


Park City’s formal opposition to Vail Resorts’ trademark application means this controversy is far from over. So, stay tuned over the following weeks, months and perhaps years to hear more.

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