Client Spotlight


CityPASS: Innovating Firm Bolsters Tourism Throughout U.S.

When CityPASS was formed at the busy intersection of tourism and attractions, founders Mike Gallagher and Mike Morey had come from different but complementary places in the travel business. In starting CityPASS in 1997, they brought together for visitors to San Francisco a booklet – today a single barcode on a smartphone does the trick – containing prepaid admissions to top attractions in the area for up to fifty percent off the individual admission prices.

OW&E was there at the outset to clear the CityPASS mark and obtain protection through trademark registration. Since then, and for the last twenty-two years, the firm (Larry Townsend since the beginning and more recently with the guiding assistance of Erin Clarke) has helped the company address its intellectual property challenges, primarily with trademark counseling and policing of its flagship CityPASS mark. In the same vein, OW&E has assisted CityPass with licensing its many resellers, including the development and maintenance of a “Trademark Usage Guide.”

“Protecting the CityPASS brand has become increasingly important over the years, especially with the introduction of competitive products both in the U.S. and around the world,” says Jennifer Brannen, Vice President, Marketing.  “We are grateful for the longstanding partnership that we have with Owen, Wickersham & Erickson, P.C. They are highly responsive, thorough in their review of infringement cases, and provide the right information to help us determine when and if to take action.”

CityPASS is “Exhibit A” evidence of the rewards of being first and best to market with a memorable brand. That’s in the tradition of other, albeit larger pioneering successes whose trademarks are so well known they are sometimes misperceived as, well, not trademarks, e.g., Xerox, Band-Aid, Bubble Wrap, and Velcro, all of which are strong and protected trademarks. In the tourism industry, CityPASS is so well known as the must-have for visitors to major metropolitan areas that it both enjoys and suffers some of the same trademark misconceptions that people have regarding the above-mentioned marks.  CityPASS copiers invariably try to argue that a “city pass” must be a thing, generic for any pay-one-price bundle of admission tickets for attractions in a geographic area. OW&E is quick and thorough to point out to infringers that, quite to the contrary, there is no such thing as a “city pass,” it having been coined by the company twenty-two years ago, and it now is a very strong and incontestable federal trademark registration.

CityPASS is now headquartered in Victor, Idaho on the west slope of the Tetons with a workforce of more than fifty employees.  The current CEO, Megan Allen, is the daughter of co-founder, Mike Morey.

To date it has sold to travelers throughout the United States and from around the world 23 million of its ticket bundles. Currently, the following destinations are featured, and the list continues to expand: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, New York City, Orlando, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Southern California, Tampa Bay, and Toronto.

By way of example, the recently updated San Francisco package includes 1) The California Academy of Sciences, 2) A Blue and Gold Fleet Bay Cruise Adventure, 3) A choice between Aquarium of the Bay or The Walt Disney Family Museum, and 4) A choice between the Exploratorium or San Francisco Zoo and Gardens. Visitors have a full nine days to use up all of the admissions from the date the first is used.

“Helping CityPASS protect its IP is a dream job,” says Larry Townsend. “They are successful innovators with a strong vision of what they are doing. They deliver value and real joy to their customers who are making the most of their travel time, creating lifelong memories while on cherished vacations with their families and friends. Who wouldn’t want to be part of that?”

– Contributed by Larry Townsend