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The Guardian - US
The Guardian - US
Dani Anguiano

Spat over airport name takes San Francisco-Oakland feud to new heights

A Delta airliner in the air.
Oakland supporters point out that San Francisco’s airport is not located in the city either, but in the nearby community of Millbrae. Photograph: Ivan Cholakov/Alamy

San Francisco and neighboring Oakland have long maintained a friendly rivalry, whether over sports or tacos. But a spat over an airport name is taking the feud to new heights.

San Francisco on Thursday sued Oakland over that city’s decision to change the name of its airport to the San Francisco Bay Oakland international airport.

San Francisco is accusing Oakland of trademark infringement, and arguing the change would create “consumer confusion”.

The airport, currently known as Oakland international airport, is trying to “increase passengers and profits by rushing to unlawfully incorporate San Francisco International Airport’s trademarked name into its own”, the lawsuit states.

The board of commissioners in Oakland voted last week to move forward with a name change – a final vote is scheduled for May. Officials with the Oakland airport have said travelers who are not familiar with the Bay Area sometimes choose to fly into San Francisco, not realizing that Oakland is in some cases closer to their destination.

“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,” Barbara Leslie, the port commission president, said after the vote.

Officials in San Francisco voiced their dismay with the plan immediately, arguing that it would confuse travelers, particularly those coming from out of the country and those who don’t speak English, and could damage the travel industry in the region.

The San Francisco mayor, airport director and board of supervisors have all come out against the name change.

“I love Oakland, but Oakland is Oakland. It’s not San Francisco,” Scott Wiener, the state senator who represents San Francisco, said on X.

Supporters of Oakland’s plan have pointed out that San Francisco’s airport is not located in the city, but in the nearby community of Millbrae – and that the Oakland airport is after all located on the San Francisco Bay.

In a statement about the lawsuit filed on Thursday, the city attorney for San Francisco said that the city had been notified of the proposal only 30 minutes before Oakland announced it to the public in March and that Oakland had “refused to engage”.

“We had hoped Oakland would come to its senses, but their refusal to collaborate on an acceptable alternative name leaves us no choice but to file a lawsuit to protect SFO’s trademark,” said David Chiu, the city attorney. “We want to see the entire Bay Area thrive as a tourist destination and expand our offerings to visitors, but the renaming is not a legal or practical way to go about it.”

Oakland officials say they will move ahead with the change.

“OAK’s proposed renaming does not infringe upon SFO’s mark,” the Port of Oakland said in a statement. “We will vigorously defend our right to claim our spot on the San Francisco Bay.”

While San Francisco officials weren’t laughing, the internet was.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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