Portland Surrenders To Old Town Brewing Over Stag Sign Trademark

from the huzzah dept

For some time, we've been following an odd trademark dispute between the city of Portland and a small brewery, Old Town Brewing, all over a famous city sign featuring a leaping stag. Old Town has a trademark for the image of the sign and uses that imagery for its business and beer labels. Portland, strangely, has pursued a trademark for the very same market and has attempted to invalidate Old Town's mark for the purpose of licensing the image to macro-breweries to fill the municipal coffers. What I'm sure city officials thought would be the quiet bullying of a local company without the breadth of legal resources Portland has at its disposal has instead ballooned into national coverage of that very same fuckery, with local industry groups rushing to the brewery's aid.

The end result of all of this has been several months of Portland officials looking comically bad in the eyes of the public. Of all places, the people of Portland were never going to sit by and let their city run roughshod over a local microbrewery just so that the Budweisers of the world could plaster local iconography over thin, metal cans of pilsner. And now, despite sticking their chins out in response to all of this backlash for these past few months, it seems that the city has finally decided to cave in.

The city has surrendered in a battle over who gets to use the iconic image of a leaping stag from the Portland Oregon sign and will not seek a trademark that would conflict with one already owned by a local brewery. The city will give up on obtaining a trademark that it could license to any beer or alcohol company to use on cans, bottles, glasses, packages or tap handles. In return, Old Town Brewing will allow Portland to grant alcohol companies the right to use the image of the famous sign on local advertising.

It's a good resolution to a dispute that never should have existed. Trademark law has become problematic generally, and in the craft beer industry more specifically, but there was nothing in what Old Town was doing that was improper. The brewery had a local connection to Portland, properly attained a trademark for the image of the sign, and then had to deal with the city pretending that none of that was true. In the end, the city has essentially accepted what Old Town's ownership suggested at the start of all this: go get your trademark, just don't tread into the alcohol market.

Before the negotiations, Milne had faced an uphill battle against the city to defend his trademark. He had advocated for more than a year that the city simply seek a trademark that did not infringe on beer, wine and alcohol. That's exactly what the city has agreed to do now.  Milne will file a letter with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office encouraging the agency to grant Portland's trademark application so long as it does not cross over into the category of beer, wine and alcohol.

And thus ends this David and Goliath story, with Goliath once again slain. Salud.


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  1. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Jan 2018 @ 7:49pm

    All’s well that ends well. Now let's all go get drunk and piss off the side of a bridge.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2018 @ 8:01pm

    Portland "has a local connection" to Portland too.

    > "It's a good resolution to a dispute that never should have existed."

    If you agree it's to the good then you have to go on that wouldn't have come about except for the suit.

    If identified with the city, then shouldn't be exclusive to one brewery, either.

    Did you miss this: "Old Town Brewing will allow Portland to grant alcohol companies the right to use the image of the famous sign" -- and isn't Budweiser going to be able to use it, then, over your objection, on "thin, metal cans of pilsner"? Guess if that was your interest in this, you lost.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2018 @ 8:12pm

    Re: " Now let's all go get drunk and piss off the side of a bridge."

    That's your right as a "natural" person, under common law.*

    And I bet it's likely the upper end of your ability: an animal act, not requiring thought.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2018 @ 8:31pm

    Re: Re: " Now let's all go get drunk and piss off the side of a bridge."

    What’s hilarious is watching a walking failure like yourself try to insult anyone else. Bawk!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2018 @ 8:46pm

    Bunch of YUPPIE's

    That think that IP is real property. not to be taken seriously by anyone that wants an actual economy instead of more excuses for the ,000000001 percent to get richer while everyone else gets poorer

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2018 @ 9:14pm

    Re: Portland "has a local connection" to Portland too.

    I think it's hilarious that your instinct is to disagree with whatever the site says regardless of how asinine or insignificant it is. Which includes the whole site, as you so gleefully claim, yet can't resist coming back for more like a housefly to food.

    I eagerly anticipate the day Masnick puts out that article which suggests that breathing might be essential to human function.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 31 Jan 2018 @ 9:16pm

    Re:

    And if Budweiser isn't able to use it... your point? Budweiser is a corporation. I thought you hated corporations?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Jan 2018 @ 9:17pm

    Re: Re:

    Joke’s on you—I don’t drink alcohol.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 31 Jan 2018 @ 9:20pm

    Re: Portland "has a local connection" to Portland too.

    isn't Budweiser going to be able to use it, then, over your objection, on "thin, metal cans of pilsner"?

    From the article:

    The city will give up on obtaining a trademark that it could license to any beer or alcohol company to use on cans, bottles, glasses, packages or tap handles. In return, Old Town Brewing will allow Portland to grant alcohol companies the right to use the image of the famous sign on local advertising.

    That means Budweiser could use the sign as part of an advertising campaign, but not as branding on actual cans or bottles of Budweiser.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  10. This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    mohdanas (profile), 1 Feb 2018 @ 12:58am

    Puravankara Kalyan ShilPhata Mumbai - Purva Kalyan

    Shilphata is superb region as residential amenities, social amenities and also for infrastructure development. It has not only residential but also has other kinds of amenities such name as hospitals, shopping center, malls, vegetables markets, schools, public schools, clinics and best roads.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  11. icon
    Dark Helmet (profile), 1 Feb 2018 @ 6:36am

    Re: Portland "has a local connection" to Portland too.

    Read harder, dummy. Budweiser can use the image in advertisements in the city, not on its packaging or trade dress.

    Reading, it's a skill.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  12. icon
    An Onymous Coward (profile), 1 Feb 2018 @ 9:15am

    Re: Re: Portland "has a local connection" to Portland too.

    If the city doesn't have a trademark why would anyone need to grant anyone else "rights" to use or allow use of the image? If the city can't trademark the image neither can Old Town Brewing. This case should effectively put the image into the public domain, no?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  13. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2018 @ 9:24am

    Re: Re:

    No, he hates Masnick; from his post history I'd argue that he only dislikes specific corporations while pushing the agenda of others if it helps him in his crusade against TechDirt.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  14. icon
    Mason Wheeler (profile), 1 Feb 2018 @ 9:43am

    And thus ends this David and Goliath story, with Goliath once again slain.

    This is one of the most misunderstood stories in history. Goliath was an infantryman, facing an opponent armed with a ranged weapon. He had about as much chance of winning as that thug who came at Indiana Jones with a sword did, and for the same basic reason. The only thing that's at all surprising about what happened is that he didn't seem to realize at any point just how utterly screwed he was!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  15. icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 1 Feb 2018 @ 2:06pm

    Re: Re: Re: Portland "has a local connection" to Portland too.

    Old Town has a trademark for the logo on alcoholic beverages. The city wanted to trademark the logo so it could sell the rights to other beer companies so they could use it on their own beverages. After all this legal wrangling and shitflinging, the two sides struck a deal where Old Town can keep its beer-related trademark and the city can have a trademark on the logo for anything but alcohol. This means the city can sell Budweiser the rights to use the logo only in local advertising, not on actual beer bottles or cans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  16. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2018 @ 5:46pm

    Re: Re: Re:

    Pretty sure the question was rhetorical, but thanks for explaining to the newcomers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  17. identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 1 Feb 2018 @ 6:37pm

    Let it ascend to the public domain

    Growing up in Portland in the 70s and 80s, I always thought the sign originated with the apparel company White Stag (the signed sat atop the White Stag building and used to read "White Stag"). Turns out the stag started life as the symbol of White Satin Sugar in 1940, turned over to the apparel company in 1957, went dark in 1989, transferred to beloved business dude Bill Naito that same year, became the "Made in Oregon" sign after a dispute following his death in 1996, became the "Oregon" sign when U of O was maintaining it until 2009, and the "Portland Oregon" sign when the city took it over in 2010.

    The fact that anyone, be it a municipality or a brewery, lays claim to property rights in the image just seems silly and wrong at this point. It belongs in the public domain.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  18. icon
    The Wanderer (profile), 2 Feb 2018 @ 8:01am

    Re:

    I've seen an analysis of details in the text at one point that indicates that he may have suffered from a particular, recognizable medical syndrome, which results in excessive size (et cetera) at the cost of something akin to what we would now call mental retardation. (Note that he apparently had to be led out to the battlefield by his handlers.)

    It's possible that he didn't even really understand what was going on, just that he was expected to fight, and that when he did he more-or-less invariably won.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]


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