Buzzword of the Month: Cascadia

Cascadia | BCBusiness

‘The Pacific Northwest’ is so passé. There’s a fresh way to display regional affiliation—one that’s causing a brand war in B.C. and down the rest of the West Coast  

The oft-proposed, very conceptual unified nation of Oregon, Washington, B.C. and, occasionally, Montana and Idaho, is having a hell of a year—at least as an increasingly mined brand. Maybe it’s because of growing validation. Time magazine included the region in a piece called “Top 10 Aspiring Nations” in 2011 and commentators from biologists to tourism operators are calling it a “bioregion,” if not a sovereign state. It all started in the ’70s (of course), when an Oregon-based sociologist named David McCloskey coined the term and a sci-fi novel called Ecotopia set in the region hammered its attributes home. Twenty years later another Oregon local created the Doug flag—tri-colour with a black Douglas fir at its centre—and the concept had a visual identity… one that’s never been hotter than it is today. Especially if you’re on the wrong side of a trademark infringement.

March 2012

An Adidas soccer commercial that airs across the U.S. features players warming up with the Doug flag blurring in and out of focus in various Northwest backgrounds. What stirs the sentiment of Cascadians from Mendocino to Merritt was the final voiceover: “Revolutions are born from simple ideas.”

November 2012

Vancouver-based Steamworks Brewing Co. Inc. owner Eli Gershkovitch begins informing Canadian West Coast breweries that use the region in their branding that he has trademarked the term “Cascadia” for all beer-related ventures. Most beer brands acquiesce, but some local beer lovers see the trademark fight as detrimental to the development—and proper labelling of—a new and popular beer type, not brand name, called Cascadian Dark Ale.

Late November 2012

The Cascadia Summit, an inaugural pitch competition that connects B.C., Washington and Oregon startups and entrepreneurs with potential investors, industry mentors, VIPs and much-needed funding, rolls into Seattle. It’s organized by Launch Academy and Vancouver-based startup accelerator GrowLab and attracts people from all over North America.

January 2013

New year, new Cascadia trademark battle, this time on the soccer pitch. Vancouver, Seattle and Portland soccer fans put their regional rivalries aside and unite to fight a Major League Soccer league attempt to trademark the name “Cascadia Cup.” The fans issue a joint statement outlining how they have used the Cascadia Cup name for years—awarding it annually to the team with the best record in games amongst the three teams—and therefore own the trademark. Just for good measure, fan reps are currently trademarking the name in the U.S. and Canada.

This story has been updated.