Portland brewery faces off with the city in trademark dispute
Portland has forged its national reputation in part around its many local breweries and exceptional craft beers.
But the city of Portland has devoted hundreds of hours and tens of thousands in legal fees to gain rights to a distinctive beer logo — a move that would undermine a local brewery.
At the center of the dispute: the leaping deer featured on the iconic city-owned neon “Portland Oregon” sign that is a prominent feature of the city’s skyline.
Old Town Brewing has clearly established legal rights to put the leaping stag on beer products. But the city wants to sell those rights to other breweries.
The clash has become a David and Goliath affair in local business owners’ eyes. So much so that one of the state’s largest microbreweries, Rogue Ales & Spirits, last month banned Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and all the city’s attorneys and bureaucrats from drinking at its Portland pubs.

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By registering the leaping deer image for use in the beer market with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Old Town Brewing has owned the sole right to use the logo on beer-related products since 2012. The brewer also has the sole right to license the image to other beer companies.
Under federal trademark law, that means neither the city of Portland nor any other entity can deploy the stag on beer-related products without Old Town’s permission.
The city, which acquired the sign in 2010, can and legally does use the iconic “Portland Oregon” stag image all the time.In 2011, it secured rights from the state to use the image locally on a wide variety of products, including clothing, footwear and entertainment – but notably not beer products.And in 2015, the city registered the image with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office for use on clothing, tote bags, cyclist jerseys and prints.
But it doesn’t have the federal trademark to use its own sign on beer bottles, promotions or equipment -- or to get licensing fees from beer companies to do so.

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