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Oakland officials vote to add "San Francisco Bay" to Oakland International Airport's name

PIX Now afternoon edition 4-11-2024
PIX Now afternoon edition 4-11-2024 08:18

Officials with the Port of Oakland on Thursday voted in favor of changing the name of the city's airport to San Francisco Bay Oakland International Airport, despite a threatened lawsuit by San Francisco over what it calls a trademark violation.

The Board of Commissioners voted unanimously during a meeting early Thursday evening to approve the change from the current name, Oakland International Airport. The airport code OAK and visual brand will not change, port officials said. 

"We are standing up for Oakland and the East Bay; this will boost inbound travelers' geographic awareness of the airport by highlighting the airport's location on the San Francisco Bay." Port Commission President Barbara Leslie said in a press release issued by the Port of Oakland. "This name will make it clear that OAK is the closest major airport, for 4.1 million people, three national laboratories, the top public university in the country, and California's Wine Country."   

The Board has scheduled a second reading and vote on the issue for the May 9th board meeting that would make the change official. 

After the vote, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu confirmed that he would fight the move in court.

"We are disappointed that Oakland did not take the opportunity to work collaboratively with us to develop alternative names and we now have no choice but to take legal action," Chiu said in a statement Thursday.  

In response, the Port of Oakland's attorney Mary Richardson released a statement of her own.

"The Port's proposed renaming does not infringe upon SFO's mark. SFO cannot lay claim to the geographically-descriptive term 'San Francisco,' let alone claim exclusive rights to San Francisco Bay," the statement read. "The Port trusts that travelers understand that the San Francisco Bay -- like virtually every other major metropolitan area throughout the world -- can contain more than one airport. The Port will take all reasonable measures to ensure clarity for travelers with respect to OAK's geographic location and distinctiveness."

The controversy over the name first came up on March 29 when Oakland International Airport officials first went public with the idea in the hopes of boosting the number of passengers flying to and from the East Bay.  

The idea has been met with pushback from officials both with the San Francisco International Airport and the city itself. 

Oakland International officials have defended the name change, claiming the airport has rallied the support of local politicians in the East Bay, including Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao.

"The name modification will use the main geographic feature of our region to identify its location, the San Francisco Bay," said Craig Simon, the airport's interim aviation director. "This is not about the City and County of San Francisco, or San Mateo County, but about our region and creating jobs in Oakland and throughout the East Bay. No one owns the title to the San Francisco Bay."  

Earlier this week, San Francisco City Attorney David Chiu warned of a potential lawsuit.

"Should you continue in these efforts, I intend to pursue legal action to prevent your use of the proposed new name," Chiu said in a letter to commissioners at the Port of Oakland.

He argued that proposal to change the official name would infringe on the trademarks of San Francisco International Airport.

"The City has held these registrations for such a long time that they have become incontestable under federal law," Chiu said. "Indeed there is and only ever has been one airport in the United States that uses 'San Francisco' in its name."

The city attorney also argued that a renaming would cause confusion for travelers.

San Mateo County officials have also spoken out in opposition to the idea.

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