by Max Brantley
A federal panel has ruled that the Hot Springs Advertising and Promotion Commission may continue to use the name Hot Springs National Park Arkansas in its trademarked logo.
Gary Speed, the Little Rock lawyer who defended the A&P Commission, called it a "total victory."
Here's a copy of the decision of the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board, which ruled late yesterday.
The National Park Service had petitioned the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in 2008 to stop the use of the phrase in commission advertising. The appeal board heard arguments in the case in December. The ad commission trademarked its logo in 2003.
Members of Congress got in the fight, with both Rep. Mike Ross and Sen. Mark Pryor urging the Park Service to back down from asserting a claim to exclusive use of the phrase Hot Springs National Park, but it held firm. The Park Service argued that its name was being used to promote businesses over which it had no control and with which it did not want to be associated. Pryor said the city agency did a better job of promoting Hot Springs than the National Park Service did.
The use of the national park name was not trademarked by A&P, the larger logo that includes it was. The A&P commission makes no claim to an exclusive right to the words Hot Springs National Park Arkansas. The trademark board's key determination was that the logo as a whole, with its diamond and other imagery, was not descriptive of the geographic location.
Because petitioner [the Parks Service] has failed to establish the first element of its claim of geographic descriptiveness, namely, that the mark as a whole is the name of a place known to the public, we find that petitioner cannot prevail on its pleaded ground for cancellation, and we need not consider whether the public would make a goods/place association, i.e., believe that the goods or services for which the mark is registered originate in that place.
Steve Arrison, director of the Hot Springs Commission said, "We're glad it's over. We knew we were right from the start." He added, "I don't think we won. We both lost. We spent over $30,000 of taxpayers' money that could have been put to better use and the federal government probably spent 12 times that much."
I tried to get a reaction from Josie Fernandez, superintendent of Hot Springs National Park. The logo had been used without controversy for several years before Fernandez arrived as superintendent. Her office provided a prepared statement from the Park Service. UPDATE: A spokesman said no decision has been made on whether to appeal the decision to the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Washington. He did not respond to my question about the cost of the legal fight. But the prepared statement certainly leaves open the possiblity of an appeal. The Park Service remains critical of the logo and wants it to change. The statement:
This decision does not diminish our desire to work with the city of Hot Springs to promote Hot Springs National Park and all the other wonderful resources and attractions in the City of Hot Springs.
The NPS continues to be concerned that the use of the National Park name in the logo causes consumers to be confused when they visit the City of Hot Springs, Arkansas
We continue to hope that the city will recognize that our concerns are valid and real and will consider revising its trademark so as to alleviate those concerns
We continue to advocate for the City of Hot Springs and the community at large to promote itself as “the Home of” or the "Gateway community to” Hot Springs National Park
Towards this end, we are interested in exploring whatever measures can be taken so that visitors to our community are not confused about the relationship between the city of Hot Springs and Hot Springs National Park.
National Park Service