Portland, the city, is back in the news again regarding Portland, the sign, and the city’s insistence that it has a trademark over the landmark. We last checked in on this when Pabst, the brewery, had used an adaptation of the famous Portland sign to promote a concert in the city. The city then worked out an arrangement with Pabst so that it could keep using its sign imagery and keep the case out of the court. This was fully in the city’s interests, because it’s unclear on why a municipality should be granted a trademark on a local landmark’s image when it isn’t actually using that image in commerce.
It seems Jeff Kunkle, owner of the Vintage Roadside shop, which sells merchandise on Etsy, thinks similarly. When Portland found that Kunkle was selling merchandise with images of the sign, the city contacted him to arrange a licensing deal. Kunkle told them to go dangle, instead suing the city to have its trademark over the sign declared invalid.
Vintage Roadside, a Portland company that sells photos of the old “Made in Oregon” sign on Etsy, is suing the city of Portland, which recently sought a licensing payment from the company for use of the image. The suit, filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court on Thursday, asks the court to declare the city’s trademark of the sign, which changed to “Portland Oregon” in 2010, invalid and unenforceable.
Oops. So, if you’re Portland and you’ve been extracting money from individuals and businesses by way of a trademark that would likely be declared invalid should a judge look it over, what do you do? Well, you utilize the rules of the court to weasel your way out of the whole thing while not admitting that your sign trademark is bullshit, of course!
City of Portland officials are employing a creative legal maneuver to get rid of a lawsuit concerning its trademark of the “Portland Oregon” sign. Last week, the city told Kunkle’s attorney, Robert Swider, that it was filing a covenant not to sue, which basically means that the city still believes the city owns the rights to the sign but won’t try to enforce them against Kunkle—now or ever… By eliminating that point of contention, the city takes away Kunkle’s standing to bring the lawsuit.
Which keeps the question over whether or not the city’s trademark is even valid to begin with. The good news is that this specific story will hopefully get enough play in the Portland area to serve as a beacon to anyone the city might later approach for one of its “licensing deals.” It should be clear at this point that the proper response to the city is to sue them outright.