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Delaware North, Park Service seek to mediate Yosemite dispute

The bitter legal battle between Delaware North, the hospitality and food-services conglomerate, and the National Park Service over the trademarked names at Yosemite National Park could end with a settlement in mediation.

A court filing this week indicates the Park Service and Buffalo’s Delaware North, the former Yosemite concessionaire, are willing to address the areas of dispute raised in Delaware North’s lawsuit in mediation, where they would be joined by the park’s current vendor, Aramark.

“Counsel for the parties have had preliminary discussions regarding a non-binding mediation that, if successful, would dispose of all of the issues in this case,” the attorneys for Delaware North and the Justice Department wrote together in the document, filed Wednesday in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims.

The parties further wrote that they hoped to reach agreement by July 21 on a process and schedule for the mediation.

The measured tone in the joint filing stands in contrast to the bellicose statements in some previous court filings, and to the public passion and vitriol that has surrounded the high-profile case.

At the same time, the parties each have incentive to settle and move on. A settlement presumably would permit the restoration of historic names to Yosemite locations such as the Ahwahnee hotel, now rebranded as the Majestic Yosemite Hotel, while providing some kind of intellectual property payment to Delaware North.

A settlement would also enable the Park Service and Delaware North to avoid potential residual tensions from seeping into other parks where the company does business through subsidiaries, such as Sequoia and Kings Canyon national parks.

“We are attempting to reach an agreement on a mediation framework involving both the government and Aramark,” Glen A. White, a Delaware North spokesman, said in a statement.

A Park Service spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The dispute dates back to last summer, when the Park Service selected Aramark, based in Philadelphia, over Delaware North for the new contract, worth up to $2 billion over 15 years, to operate hotels, restaurants, stores and other services in Yosemite.

Delaware North had held the contract at the park since 1993. Last fall, the company filed a breach-of-contract lawsuit against the Park Service, which responded in January that the legal dispute was forcing it to rename some venues at the California park.

When Delaware North first won the contract, the company said it was required to buy the tangible and intangible assets of the previous operator, the Curry Co., for $61.5 million, or $115 million in today’s dollars. That included intellectual property such as the names of the venues.

Delaware North said that its original Yosemite contract also included an agreement that any successor company to Delaware North at the park would have to buy out all of its assets.

The company and the Park Service disagree over the value of the trademarks and other intangibles, which the company contends are worth $51 million but which the Park Service insists are worth $3.5 million.

McClatchy’s Washington Bureau contributed to this report.