On November 8, 2017, Willamette Week featured the story, "Oh Deer," detailing how family owned brewery Old Town Brewing & Pizza was being bullied by the City of Portland. DPK Public Relations represents Old Town Brewing in this matter.
As all trademark disputes can be, this one is complicated. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) has recognized Old Town Brewing with an incontestable trademark of a leaping deer for use in beer and alcohol, which is the highest level of trademark protection. Yet the City of Portland has filed multiple trademark applications seeking to trademark an image that encompasses a leaping deer for beer and alcohol. So far, the USPTO has rejected the city's applications three times. To date, legal fees related to these applications have cost taxpayers tens of thousands of dollars -- perhaps as much as $100,000 total.
The city is seeking the trademark so it can justify licensing the image to other beer and alcohol companies, including Anheuser Busch-Inbev.
With its own legal fees mounting from efforts to protect its trademark from the city's nagging infringement, and with city officials unresponsive to its efforts to negotiate a long-term agreement that would protect its brand, Old Town Brewing decided to go public. It was not an easy decision and owner Adam Milne did not take it lightly. As every small business knows, poking City Hall -- no matter how justified -- can create headaches. But Milne felt compelled to tell his story.
Let's just say the media was interested. We worked hard to simplify the complexities of trademark law and focus on the waste and abuse of power involved in targeting of a locally owned business. To date, here is a roundup of coverage:
Portland brewery faces off with the city in trademark dispute
Murmurs: Businesses Ask City to Give Up Trademark Battles
Portland Business Journal
5 things to know for Wednesday, Logo loco
Reverend Nat’s Solidarity Party for Old Town Brewing
Promo Marketing Magazine
Brewery Bans Portland Mayor From Locations After Logo Dispute
Rogue Ales bans Portland mayor over trademark dispute
City on losing side of trademark dispute involving iconic 'Portland, Oregon' sign
Iconic 'Portland Oregon' sign at center of trademark spat
Old Town Brewing in Fight with City of Portland Over Stag Symbol
Portland Business Journal
5 things to know for Friday, Oh Deer
AB Inbev Teamed Up with Portland, Oregon to Fight a Craft Brewery
The Brew Site
Oregon Beer News, 11/17/2017
City Of Portland Still Jerking Around Local Businesses Over Trademark Of Famous City Sign
A fight for Portland’s most famous deer
Washington Beer Blog
Shame on You, Portland! In a Trademark Battle with One of It's Own Breweries
The City of Portland Versus Old Town Brewing
Old Town Brewing Co. Alleges Portland City Hall Is "Favoring Big Beer" in Trademark Dispute
Battle brewing: Old Town, city at odds over stag logo
City Hall and a Local Brewer Both Claim They Own the Trademark to Portland’s Most Famous Deer
While we would love to report that the attention has resulted in a mutually beneficial long-term solution, work toward that end is still ongoing. We can say that City Hall has been listening.