Portland is putting its Pabst Blue Ribbon lawsuit on ice.

City attorneys asked Portland Mayor Charlie Hales to delay a Wednesday vote to authorize legal action against Pabst Brewing Co.

The city had alleged the brewery used “a confusingly similar version” of the Rose City’s trademarked “Portland Oregon” sign, which sits on the roof of the White Stag building in Old Town-Chinatown, to promote the beer giant’s inaugural Project Pabst music festival.

On Wednesday, the City Council was expected to sign off on legal action against the company to recoup unspecified damages for the “unauthorized use of the trademark.”

But Dana Haynes, Mayor Charlie Hales’ spokesman, said now both parties are trying to reach an accord. “The attorneys from both sides have been communicating and they felt they were in close proximity to an amicable solution,” Haynes said.

They haven’t reached that solution just yet, but avoiding a costly lawsuit “would be the better solution by far,” Haynes said.

The City Council could take up the issue on Jan. 28. “They just pushed it back,” Haynes said of a decision.

A display for Project Pabst inside a Fred Meyer store in Portland, Oregon. City officials called the Project Pabst logo a “knock off” of the city’s trademarked sign. 

The iconic Portland Oregon sign greets westbound travelers on the Burnside Bridge and features a leaping white stag atop a sign shaped like the state of Oregon. At the bottom, the sign reads Old Town.

Pabst, which held its inaugural music festival at the Zidell Yards in Southwest Portland last year, created its own likeness of the sign. The Pabst version features a unicorn and the location of the festival.

Portland has a process to officially authorize the sign’s use in media, promotional materials and for other causes.

According to city documents, Portland and Pabst were working together to find an appropriate use through that application process, but the city declined the company’s application. But Pabst continued with its promotion despite the city’s determination that the use didn’t comply with policy restricting the sign’s use on services that aren’t available to all ages.

City attorneys also sent a cease and desist letter to the brewery giant after the company used the same logo to promote the 2015 Project Pabst festival in July. Pabst “did not respond favorably” to that letter, according to city documents.

Pabst officials didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

But both the Project Pabst website and social media accounts featured a new logo of a unicorn emerging from the famous Blue Ribbon. According to the music festival’s Facebook page, the profile picture was changed on Monday.

Haynes said when Hales first heard of the potential lawsuit, he quipped, “I hope we have a blue ribbon committee.”

Earlier this year, Hales and Commissioner Nick Fish created a Blue Ribbon Commission to offer recommendations on how to improve oversight of the water and sewer bureaus.

— Andrew Theen

[email protected]
503-294-4026, @cityhallwatch

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