Beer Brand Battles: David Takes on City Hall (with Goliath on the sidelines)
The City of Portland is known as a hub for craft beer, and its local government couldn’t be prouder. The Travel Portland website proudly proclaims that Portland is “home to more breweries than any other city on earth.” Yet the city’s relationship with the local craft beer scene is not so bubbly at the moment, as trademark dispute between the city and local Old Town Brewing has gone public.
The dispute revolves around Old Town Brewing’s logo and a large lighted sign owned by the city, both shown below.
This isn’t the first time the city hasn’t gotten into a dispute with a brewery over the sign. The city previously objected to Pabst’s use of a logo derived from the sign back in 2015. Our 2015 article contains a good back story as to the city’s purchase of the sign as well as the city’s claimed trademark rights in the sign (and for our regular readers, the investigation into Portland’s unicorn burial ground is ongoing). However, for our purposes, a TLDR history will suffice. The sign is known as the “White Stag” sign and was built in 1940. The text has changed numerous times along with the ownership. The City of Portland purchased the sign in 2010 and has since begun licensing reproductions of the sign to third-parties.
Most recently, Portland sought to license production of the sign to AB InBev, the parent company to Budweiser and a whole host of other big and small names in the alcohol business. Jeff Alworth at the Beervana Blog has a great write up regarding the dispute that is worth a read. As you might expect, the small, local craft brewery is not pleased with Portland’s attempt to permit a direct competitor to use a similar logo. The fact that the competitor is Budweiser certainly can’t help.
Luckily for Old Town, they recognized the benefits of obtaining a registration for their design logo at the U.S. Trademark Office. Even better, the registration is now more than 5 years old and can no longer be challenged on a number of grounds, like confusion with a senior user’s mark.
The City of Portland also recognized the importance of registrations and applied to register the image of the sign for a wide variety of goods and services, including alcoholic products. The Trademark Office has refused registration based on a likelihood of confusion with Old Town’s prior registration.
The situation is a twist on the more common David versus Goliath of Big Beer versus Craft Beer, and not simply because the City of Portland is involved. In fact, the city is claiming that David, aka, Old Town Brewing, is the bad guy. The City is arguing that “it is Old Town Brewing that is trying to prevent the City from using its own logo.”
The city isn’t entirely off base. It’s true that the City isn’t telling Old Town to stop using the logo. But the City’s argument makes a lot of assumptions that may not hold water (or other beverages, for that matter).
The city seems to assume that because the City bought the sign, they own the right to use the component images of that sign for any and all purposes. That’s wrong. For a lot of reasons. Owning a sign doesn’t create trademark rights, use does. And if Old Town began using a portion of that sign as a trademark before any other third-party, then Old Town is the senior user. Also, even if the City owns some trademark rights, the law is clear that a trademark does not provide a right in gross. Trademark rights are defined by the goods or services sold under the mark, with protection against goods and services that are sufficiently related to owner’s goods or services.
Also, the City’s white hat isn’t so white. I’m not even sure it’s a hat. Old Town isn’t the bad guy here. The brewery isn’t telling the City not to use the logo derived from the sign design. I’m not a politician or a mayor, but I can’t think of any reason why a city needs to be able to use its logo to sell beer. If Minneapolis were doing this, I’d kindly ask that they fix the potholes or finish construction on the bridges over 35W first.
At the moment, it seems that public opinion seems to be in Old Town’s favor, at least based on the limited (and biased) sampling of Old Town’s Facebook Page. From the legal standpoint, it seems that Old Town has an upper hand, but from all public statements it seems that Portland is committed to moving forward with its own applications and a license. But is a deal with Budweiser important enough to risk the bad press and the alienation of the craft beer industry? The City has until March 15 to appeal the Trademark Office’s last Office Action. By then, we’ll at least know whether Portland wants to continue the fight. In the meantime, I’ll be looking to see how far Old Town distributes its products. Their SHANGHAI’D IPA sounds delicious, not to mention, it has an excellent name.
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November 30, 2017 at 11:14AM
Writers: It’s Time to Get Paid What You’re Worth
This week is for our professional writers — whether you’re a freelancer or you work for a bigger organization.
We’re tired of you missing out on the great gigs and the plum jobs, while you watch people zoom past you who can hardly type The Cat on the Mat.
Poverty is overrated. Let’s get you the respect — and the pay — you deserve.
Your first order of business is to get on the list to be notified when we reopen our Certified Content Marketer program very soon.
The program has two key parts. First, we’ll teach you the content strategies that let you create exceptional results for your clients. Second, we offer the opportunity to become Copyblogger Certified, putting your name in front of the clients who are willing to pay for the best. There are advantages to signing up early, so get on the waitlist so you can be among the first to check it out.
On Monday, Stefanie Flaxman combined her own freelance experience with many years of advice here on Copyblogger to give you 30 solid tips for positioning yourself as an in-demand writer. You can use them as a kind of “map of the territory” toward more (and better) writing work.
On Tuesday, one of our Certified Content Marketers, Brandon Davis, wrote about how to coach your writing clients to bring out their own individual brand voices. Rather than accept a role as a glorified typist, you become the valued “voice coach” who brings forth something remarkable. (Useful bonus: Voice coaches are paid much better than typists.)
On Wednesday, I shared some of my cranky thoughts on why talented writers lose great gigs to hacks and wannabes. I give you a (friendly) shake to wake you up to what we all lose when you play small.
On the Copyblogger FM podcast, I talked about how to take your list of content ideas and zero in on the ones with potential. (Thanks to Shannon at Lives Abroad for the question in the Copyblogger comments that sparked the episode!)
And on The Digital Entrepreneur, Sean Jackson and Katy Katz had a conversation with Tony Wright about how to protect your online reputation when a crisis unfolds. Writers, these are great skills to help out your clients with.
That’s the content for this week — I hope you’ll use these resources to take action and claim what you’re worth!— Sonia Simone
Chief Content Officer, Rainmaker Digital
Catch up on this week’s content
by Stefanie Flaxman
by Brandon Davis
by Sonia Simone
by Sean Jackson
by Sonia Simone
by Sean Jackson
by Kelton Reid
by Kelton Reid
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November 30, 2017 at 09:15AM
We’re all pros already.
1) We show up every day
2) We show up no matter what
3) We stay on the job all day
4) We are committed over the long haul
5) The stakes for us are high and real
6) We accept remuneration for our labor
7) We do not overidentify with our jobs
8) We master the technique of our jobs
9) We have a sense of humor about our jobs
10) We receive praise or blame in the real world
― Steven Pressfield
From the book: The War of Art
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November 30, 2017 at 05:57AM