Anheuser-Busch & City of Portland Team Up Against Old Town Brewing
Aside from brewery acquisitions, trademark infringements may just be one of craft beers’s most polarizing issues. But one major trademark dispute involving Portland’s Old Town Brewing, has been bringing Portland’s craft beer community closer together.
Last week, beer journalist, Jeff Alworth of Beervana Blog laid out details surrounding the city of Portland’s legal battle with Old Town Brewing’s use of the iconic White Stag logo. The iconic White Stag neon sign that hangs atop the White Stag building in the Old Town district of downtown Portland, was first installed in 1940 by Ramsay Signs, and originally read “White Satin Sugar”. Since 1957, when the building first changed ownership, the sign has gone on to advertise a number of different messages, and is now technically owned by the City of Portland.
However in 2012, Old Town Brewing founder, Adam Milne trademarked the leaping stag logo as the focal logo for his brewery. That trademark has since been recognized as “incontestable” by the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), a designation for trademarks that have been actively protected for the duration of five years. In order for a trademark to remain protected, companies must defend and protect against any infringements that arise within that industry. So when breweries file cease-and-desist letters against each other, as with last week’s Epic Brewing versus Eddyline Brewing conflict over Eddyline’s use of Epic Day Double IPA, the cause for litigation, is often simply to ensure that a brewery is able to defend their own trademark.
So two and a half years ago, when Milne discovered that the City of Portland had applied for a trademark to use the White Stag logo for a number of marketing purposes, including within the alcohol sphere, he approached the city to seek a compromise that would allow them to re-file their application to use the logo on non-alcohol related products. However, the city specifically intended to use the logo within the alcohol sphere as they had planned licensing deals involving the White Stag with Maker’s Mark and Anheuser-Busch InBev. The USPTO eventually rejected that application, in favor of Old Town Brewing.
The City of Portland has since attempted to appeal the ruling three separate times, each time failing to secure use of the logo from the USPTO and are now attempting to sue Old Town until he can no longer afford to defend his trademark.
Meanwhile local breweries such as Rogue, Laurelwood and Great Notion have come to Old Town’s defense with Rogue issuing a letter on Old Town’s behalf, and also banning Mayor Ted Wheeler from its properties.
The truly ironic part of all of this is that the City of Portland’s which prides itself as “Beervana” is attempting to bankrupt or steal from one of those breweries that comprises the very beer community it aims to market.
For more on the story, be sure to read Jeff Alworth’s full account of the conflict on his Beervana Blog.