Shame on you, Portland! In a trademark battle with one of its own breweries


This one is straight out of the Twilight Zone. At first blush, it sounds too bizarre to be real. The deeper you dig into this story, the more wacko it seems. Unfortunately, it’s all too real, especially for the brewery that has already spent tens of thousands of dollars protecting itself in a brutal, yet baseless, trademark dispute against the most unlikely of opponents.

As recently reported on Beervana: The Blog, Portland’s Office of Management and Finance is currently embroiled in a trademark battle with one of its beloved local breweries. It’s a long and complicated story, but the very short version of it is that the City of Portland is seeking to undermine one of its local breweries because it wants to play tiddlywinks with the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Yes, that Portland! The place known as Beervana! And yes, that Anheuser-Busch InBev.

Basically, the City of Portland is trying to use a trademarked logo that is rightfully controlled by Old Town Brewing. Portland intends to launch a marketing campaign using the disputed trademark. It’s a campaign that will apparently involve a lot of “opportunities” with the likes of Anheuser-Busch InBev, so the City is pretty seriously committed to crushing the little guy.

At the heart of the matter, a simple white stag taking a leap, as pictured in the logo above. It may seem simple and almost trivial, but it is a protected, rightfully owned trademark. The City wants it, but Old Town Brewing controls it, especially as it applies to the beer world and the drinks world in general. Open and shut. Should be a done deal.

On Facebook, Old Town Brewing said, “All we are asking for from the City is to respect the rights we have established in that narrow product category, and to refrain from licensing the sign image for alcoholic products, especially to large multinational beer conglomerates.”

Regarding this matter, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has already sided with Old Town Brewing three times, but the city seems determined to have its way. City officials have all but admitted that the strategy is to bleed Old Town Brewing dry, filing appeals until the brewery gives up the fight, knowing that an independent, local brewery, no matter how beloved by its community, cannot afford to engage in an endless legal battle with the City.

Portland is looking to promote its vibrant beer and booze culture using the image that Old Town Brewing has trademarked. There are two sides to every story, but to this point the city’s position seems to be based on some bizarre pretzel logic, the kind of stuff a slobbering-drunk guy spews at you when he’s trying to defend his indefensible opinion on a late Saturday night. “Sure, it’s your trademark, but it’s ours because we want it to be ours.”

I encourage you to read the more-detailed analysis of the situation that Jeff Alworth published on Beervana: The Blog so you have a deeper understanding of this issue. It is really something.

Portland’s Mayor, Ted Wheeler, is thus far standing behind the city’s Office of Management and Finance. I encourage you to let him know what you think. Call his opinion line at 503-823-4127.

I am not a Portland resident so I don’t have a vote, but I have let Mayor Wheeler know that I’m disappointed and that this action changes my opinion of Portland. Beer lovers across the country and around the world look at Portland, Oregon as a model. We think of it as a forward-thinking community that, on the highest levels, supports a vibrant beer culture. We think of Portland as a city that understands the value and importance of its independent breweries and the unique way breweries provide so much to the character and economy of any city and especially Portland.

The fact that Anheuser-Busch InBev is part of this story makes it even more disillusioning. You know those deep pockets are somehow involved in moving this thing forward. If it wasn’t for that carrot dangling out there, maybe the City would not be so singularly focused on victory at any cost. To be honest, the whole thing makes me sad as much as it makes me mad.

Portland is bullying Old Town Brewing into submission and, to sum up my opinion, the City should be ashamed.




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