A few days ago my wife came back from Starbucks and on her cup of coffee was sleeve with an advertisement for the new GMC Acadia.
“Welcome to Acadia. The crossover from GMC”
Like most people I didn’t think much of this at first. After all we’re bombarded with tons of marketing messages everyday and most of us have learned to filter much of this out. Except on this day I also passed a GMC Denali on the road as well and I started to get mad after I made the realization that “Corporate America” is hijacking the names of National Parks for their corporate brands.
A while ago I wrote a blog post titled Fewer Americans Visiting National Parks? Lets see… and touched on the fact that the National Park system now receives noticeably less funding than it used to.
National Parks Funding for Natural Resources Agencies Falls Short of Needs – Environmental News Service (2005)
Parks Feel ’80 Percent’ Squeeze – Washington Post (2006)
Not too long after these changes in funding the National Park Service (NPS) implemented a policy of charging commercial photographers and cinematographers for permits. When this was first announced it alarmed a lot of people and forced park employees to start inquiring with visitors about their intentions upon visiting. This has created quite a nuisance for serious amateurs, semi-pro photographers and pro photographers a like… truly anyone with an official looking setup (ie tripod and video or still camera).
Commercial Filming and Still Photography Permits – NPS Digest
What makes me really mad is:
1. The National Park Service is being short changed by our government impacting their ability to manage and conserve parks.
2. The National Park Service has been forced to charge visitors more to cover the funding shortfall forced upon them.
But what really blows my mind and makes me even more irate…
is that “Corporate America” gets a free pass in using National Park names for their products while visitors have to carry the burden of the funding shortfall. For one thing the government should never have cut funds to the National Park Service and other land conservation departments, but considering the reality of the situation the National Park Service has dropped the ball.
I’m truly astonished that the National Park Service hasn’t trademarked the names of each and every National Park. This would provide the National Park System a portfolio of intellectual property that they could use to generate income, income from licensing the use of park names. Would I be any happier that National Park names are being commercialized… not really, but at least it might alleviate the burden being placed on park visitors and enable the park service to properly conserve our parks.
Would there be ground for the government to trademark park names? Could National Park names be considered public domain? I’m no lawyer, but I would think that there would be a fairly strong argument to preserve the integrity of these names against products that go counter to the conservation efforts of these lands. A gas guzzling SUV named after a National Park doesn’t quite align itself to the message and ideals (pristine, clean, nature, green, conservation, etc.) built around each park in National Park system. In fact I’d argue that autos/trucks in particular run counter to the inferred and marketed message behind U.S. National Parks.
Our National Parks exist in a precarious environment unfortunately and the National Park Service truly needs to start thinking intelligently about how to ease the burden on those that care most about these lands while generating lost income through more creative means. In addition there is no reason that a company like GMC should be able to use these names free of charge, exploit the names of our National Parks for the sake of product image and provide nothing back to the National Park System with the simple goal of being socially responsible.
For those with a like minded view can you think of any other companies/products exploiting the name of National Parks or other protected lands?
[tags]National Park, NPS, corporate, conservation, public land, Starbucks, GM[/tags]