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Purveyor of Vintage Images Sues Portland Over Use of "Portland Oregon" Sign

Suit asks judge to declare Portland's trademark invalid and unenforceable.

Vintage Roadside
Made in Oregon

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.

Jeff Kunkle, owner of Vintage Roadside, tells WW that attorneys for the city have been going after artists for using images of the sign—in both its current form and its previous iteration—alleging trademark violation.

Kunkle argues, though, that the city's understanding of its trademark is overly broad and that it harms artists.

The city of Portland charges companies between $100 and $20,000 each time they seek to use the sign's imagery. The fees depend on the annual gross revenue of the companies. The money is meant to offset the cost of maintaining the sign—an estimated $28,000 per year.

Portland took control of the sign in 2010 after a heated struggle with the University of Oregon, which wanted to change the sign to promote UO.

This isn't the first battle over the sign's trademark. The city of Portland squared off with Pabst Blue Ribbon over the beer company's use of the sign's imagery in advertisements for a musical festival. In that case, the city threatened to sue Pabst.