Battle brewing: Old Town, city at odds over stag logo

Old Town's trademark was deemed 'incontestable'

Old Town Brewing's trademark on the dear logo was deemed incontestable, meaning it couldn't be disputed. (KOIN)

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — More than 5 years ago Adam Milne, the owner of Portland’s Old Town Brewing, trademarked the beer’s leaping deer logo — an image identical to the one on the famous Portland “White Stag” sign. The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office called Old Town Brewing’s right to the image “incontestable,” meaning it can’t be disputed.

Now, there is some dispute over the logo and how it intersects with the local brewing scene. Milne said the city — which owns the White Stag sign — has made attempts over the past 2 years to strike licensing deals with big breweries, hoping to use the iconic stag to provide a little more local flavor to their product — something that Milne said is contrary to what makes Portland, Portland.

Oldtown Brewing owner Adam Milne said he got his logo trademarked 5 years ago (Oldtown’s website)

“I think the one thing that makes Portland so prideful is our small businesses, our local restaurants our breweries and our wineries,” Milne said. “And for our city to be in talks with multi-national conglomerates, just does not seem like a Portland value.”

Milne also said potential licensing deals regarding the white stag between the city and other brewers could hurt his business, which is exactly why he got the logo trademarked 5 years ago.

Old Town Brewing owner Adam Milne said he got a trademark on the deer logo 5 years ago. (KOIN)

Brant Enge, the director of the city’s internal business services, said using an image of the entire sign, opposed to just the stag, makes the city’s use different enough that they should be able to license it to other beer companies. Enge also confirmed Portland is in talks with big breweries.

Portland made an attempt to trademark the image of the entire White Stag sign for licensing to breweries, but it was denied. The city told KOIN 6 News a potential trademark isn’t about money, but instead it’s about controlling Portland’s image.

“Part of it is because of the protest lodged by Old Town Brewing,” said Simon Whang, the Deputy City Attorney for Portland.

Enge said the city will apply for trademark again.

“It does not confuse people in terms of their Old Town marketing,” Enge said.

The City of Portland has been here before. In Jan. 2015, the city made plans to sue Pabst Brewing Company for copyright infringement after Pabst used a knockoff version of the white stag logo to promote its annual music festival, “Project Pabst.”

City leaders said in 2015 that the company asked to use the logo, but the city denied it. The city said the reason it declined Pabst’s request is because current policy does not allow the white stag mark to be used on products and services that are not available to people of all ages.

The city planned to vote on suing Pabst, but the item was pulled from the agenda because then-Mayor Charlie Hales said there was a potential settlement. 

Old Town Brewing’s trademark on the dear logo was deemed incontestable, meaning it couldn’t be disputed. (KOIN)