Anheuser-Busch Trying To Trademark Area Codes For Local Beers

from the drunk-moron-in-a-hurry? dept

Ryan points us to the news that beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev is apparently in the process of trying to trademark various area codes across the country. A few months back AB bought Goose Island, a craft brewer who made a beer called 312... after the local area code in Chicago. Apparently AB liked the idea so much that it's seeking trademarks elsewhere, which (one assumes) it will try to use to offer local beers. Of course, with an operation like AB, you wonder if it won't just package up the same beer for each location...


Reader Comments (rss)

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  •  
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    Chris-Mouse (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 4:46am

    Didn't Intel discover that you can't trademark a number?
    Has the USPTO changed their policy on this in the last decade?

     

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      Mike42 (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:01am

      Re:

      Thank you for calling Bullshit! And in the first post, no less!
      You can probably get it past the USPTO, but it won't hold in court.

      It's a 586! It's a Pentium! It's a 586! It's a Pentium!

       

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        identicon
        Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:58am

        Re: Re:

        What makes you think a number won't "hold up in court" as a trademark?

        Just like every other trademark, it depends on how you use it and its relationship to the goods or services.

         

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      Rich Fiscus (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:41am

      It's more complicated than that

      Didn't Intel discover that you can't trademark a number?
      The use of 286, 386, and 486 as common names for previous generations of CPU architecture meant 586 was already used by the public to describe the original Pentium before it was even designed. Intel trademarked i586 in addition to Pentium, but chose to use the latter for marketing because it would be distinct from similar products like AMD's (trademarked) AM586.

      Naming a beer after a zip code has no such problem. If you describe a beer to someone with a three digit number, they're not likely to even guess that it's a reference to where the beer comes from.

       

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        Rich Fiscus (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:42am

        Re: It's more complicated than that

        Oops, I meant area code

         

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        HothMonster, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 10:00am

        Re: It's more complicated than that

        312 was only sold in Chicago(land area) so everyone automatically new what the reference was. It didnt hurt that the tap handle was a telephone and a telephone was on the bottle either.

        I imagine this is just a plan to sell the same beer with a different name in different cities. So where ever people drink it it is their area code.

         

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          Rich Fiscus (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 10:38am

          Re: Re: It's more complicated than that

          Perhaps, but it's still different. If you just say the name 312, few people will automatically assume you're talking about beer, even in the Chicago area. On the other hand, if you said 586 to someone familiar with computers in the early 90s, they would assume you were talking about a microprocessor.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jul 22nd, 2011 @ 10:36am

            Re: Re: Re: It's more complicated than that

            meh, context.

            If if someone just said 312 my mind would think of this beer or the area code and if someone just said 586 i would probably think of processors.

            But if someone just walked up and said three numbers to me I imagine my first thought would be that they are crazy.

             

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          JMG, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 11:30am

          Re: Re: It's more complicated than that

          Only sold in Chicago? Was this for a limited time or something? Used to be able to get it all over Kentucky. Very recognizable because of the telephone as the tap. It was pretty popular here too, but was probably my least favorite of the Goose Island flavors that rotate around here.

           

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            HothMonster, Jul 22nd, 2011 @ 10:35am

            Re: Re: Re: It's more complicated than that

            "Only sold in Chicago? Was this for a limited time or something? Used to be able to get it all over Kentucky."

            No that was a year round beer. Sorry for my ignorance I didn't know Goose Island was distributing elsewhere these days. I know in my college years I never saw it elsewhere in the midwest. These days when I travel I look for beers that arnt available to me not my local go-to. So if its been in other places I guess I just never noticed. But checking the Wiki it looks like they went semi-national in 2006.

             

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:55am

      Re:

      There's nothing preventing someone from getting a trademark registration for a mark consisting of a number.

       

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    Nicedoggy, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 4:49am

    http://freebeer.org/blog/

    Thank God for free beer and the open source people :)

     

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    ambiguator, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:06am

    actually...

    The beer is called "312 Urban Wheat."

    Let's hope they come up with more clever monickers than just the 3 digits of an area code.

     

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    Richard (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:11am

    If this was Europe

    Then there would be a requirement that the beer be actually made within the area - AB might not like that....

     

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    Richard (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:12am

    Patent

    Also , the 312 people dshould patent the idea of naming a beer after an area code...

     

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    abc gum, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:13am

    A beer by any other name would taste as good

     

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    ComputerAddict (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:29am

    312 Urban Wheat sounds identical to Budweiser: Low alcohol by volume; SRM 20 (aka piss yellow); 2-Row and Torrified wheat, which most homebrewers would just consider a base-malt on which you would build a specialty grain package on top of; and Liberty and Cascade hops (a very mild hop) that probably walked through the beer on stilts.

    Congrats AB, you bought your own beer.

     

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      ComputerAddict (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:31am

      Re:

      Ohh Btw, Beer info about 312 obtained from Goose Island Directly: http://www.gooseisland.com/pages/312_urban_wheat/16.php

      Info on what Bud might be made of comes from experience and confirmation from http://www.homebrewtalk.com/f37/budweiser-clone-105423/index2.html#post1157628

       

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      Richard (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:04am

      Re:

      312 Urban Wheat sounds identical to Budweiser:

      You mean phoney Budweiser - real Budweiser - as brewed in the Czech Republic - is quite different. (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Budweiser) Of course this is simply history repeating itself - the AB thought the Budweiser name sounded good and so simply used it - then had the cheek to try and stop the original companies using the name.
      It looks like they want to try the same trick with the area codes. Of course in Europe there is a tendency to require geographically based names of food products to be genuine so AB would have a hard time doing it over here.

       

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        Christopher (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:22am

        Umm, what?

        The Czech beer came after the AB beer; Budweiser is a made-up name.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:42am

          Re: Umm, what?

          Er, no. It's named after a city in the Czech Republic, where the original Budweiser was brewed:

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/%C4%8Cesk%C3%A9_Bud%C4%9Bjovice

          If you want a real Budweiser, try Budweiser Budvar (or Czechvar as it's known in America, according to Wikipedia).

           

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          Richard (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:29am

          Re: Umm, what?

          The Czech beer came after the AB beer; Budweiser is a made-up name.

          If you had bothered to read the link I provided you would never have written that...

           

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          Anonymous Coward, Dec 3rd, 2013 @ 4:24am

          Re: Umm, what?

          So, Budweiser Bier Bürgerbräu is Founded in 1795 by German-speaking citizens of Budweis, which began exporting Budweiser Bier to the United States in 1875, a year before AB started making their own Budweiser in 1876, so yeah, that Czech Republic company totally stole the name Budweiser from AB and not from the the town they started in... before AB did it... yeah... I also have some swamp land in Florida I am trying to sell, you interested?

           

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        ComputerAddict (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:23am

        Re: Re:

        While technically correct, Czech bud came first, being an American blog site, I assumed that most readers would associate the name Bud with the company that made 13 billion more in profit, and is also a product of the company the article was about.

        http://xkcd.com/386/

         

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 10:36am

        Re: Re:

        Not accurate. AB made Budweiser first. Then the Czech brewery tried to use the name, AFTER AB.

         

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 8:09am

      Re:

      Have you actually HAD a 312? It tastes nothing like Budweiser.

      Great job with nothing of substance.

      It's actually a pretty good micro-brew.

       

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        ComputerAddict (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:43am

        Re: Re:

        Did you read my post? Its pretty obvious I have not had it. with things like "sounds identical." Seeming how its over 1000 miles away to go try one.. probably won't until AB stocks it the next "Bud Light Lime".

        I wouldn't say its "nothing of substance" Given the ingredients, Color, IBU, and other information provided by Goose Island, The creators of the beer, and experience from brewing beer myself I have a pretty good idea what it would taste like. It would probably be a little more hoppy than Bud / Bud light (from the IBU being 20 vs 5-10). Consider it like an Expert Witness in a court case.... He wasn't there but still knows a little about what hes talking about.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 10:45am

          Re: Re: Re:

          No, you are not an "expert witness" 312 is a summer wheat beer. It is more like Blue Moon than Bud. As someone with homebrewing experience, you should know better than to assume that similar ingredients should make something "identical"

          I doubt that bud has torrified wheat. I think it does have corn though.

           

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            Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 12:23pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re:

            Yeah, weird that his comparison of a wheat beer to Bud/Bud Light would focus on being a "little more hoppy" due to IBUs.

             

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    Ima Fish (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:29am

    "you wonder if it won't just package up the same beer for each location"

    Well, if the number described the location of its origin... then it would be a merely descriptive mark. Which could not be trademarked. So the only way it'll work is if they do not use it to describe its origin.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:37am

      Re:

      I have no idea which delusional made up facts Mike based that arrogant comment on, but AB do not repackage the same beer. They have tons of local breweries that make different recipes for the same beers.

       

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:43am

    As if I can't tell the difference between a local beer and A.B.. Even if I am fooled into drinking one once, it will be a one-time occurrence.

     

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      ComputerAddict (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:44am

      Re:

      Yea same here, in Vermont our definition of Beer is a little different than most of the country.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 5:54am

        Re: Re:

        Long Trail! I lovermont! except our representitives!

        its too bad about NAB buying MH tho.

         

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          ComputerAddict (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:46am

          Re: Re: Re:

          I like Sanders he is one of a few senators fighting for the people, to hell with Leahy...

          Magic Hat has always been an interesting company, They have really great ideals, brewing "whatever they want" I want to like their beers, I used to drink #9... but most of their beer's taste like crap to me. You drink them because you like the concept. Once you start having other local beers like Long Trail, Switchback, Rock Art, etc. Magic Hat loses interest.

           

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        nunya_bidness, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:20am

        Beer Definition

        By definition beer is malt hops yeast and water, so Bud is not beer because it has rice in it, like so many other big brewers that cut thier formula with cheaper ingredients.
        fake fake fake

         

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          ComputerAddict (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 9:50am

          Re: Beer Definition

          While bud does have rice in it, some say around 30%, I think there is still some barley malt in there... probably just enough to get around the legal issues of the 4 neccasary ingredients.

           

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      identicon
      Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 10:03am

      Re:

      So, you think Goose Island 312 started tasting different the moment AB bought Goose Island? Really?

       

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        The Incoherent One (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 10:37am

        Re: Re:

        No, but if they bought it then it probably fits into one of the afformentioned piss categories.

         

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          Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 12:26pm

          Re: Re: Re:

          Goose Island isn't my favorite brewery, but they make a lot of non-piss beers.

          I guess some beer snobs are so eager to show how elite their tastes are that they make judgments based on labels rather than facts/taste.

           

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    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:03am

    Zip codes

    I'm trademarking my zip code before they get any crazy ideas. Maybe I can make a lot of money selling them the trademark! I'll even make a shitty homebrew and name it that if that's what it takes.

     

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    Dark Helmet (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:07am

    Lame

    312 used to be my go to beer. I actually used to do some work for Goose Island Brewing Co. as well.

    Those bastards are experts at ruining good breweries....

     

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      HothMonster, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:38am

      Re: Lame

      yeah I was sad to see this one go to, I imagine the mass produced AB swill will be nothing like it. As someone else mentioned above I imagine AB's 312 is gonna taste a lot like Budweiser

       

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    John William Nelson (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:09am

    Geographic marks generally aren't allowable . . .

    You'd have to add more to it. For example, someone mentioned 312 Urban Wheat. You might be able to trademark that—but that may still be problematic from a geographical mark standpoint.

    And yes, I'd argue area codes would be geographically descriptive.

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:13am

    The trademarking is a pretty normal part of the process of rolling out products. Trademarking three digit numbers in relationship to beer isn't really a big thing. Not entirely sure why this would even merit a post on Techdirt. It's not exactly outside of the norm.

     

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      abc gum, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:29am

      Re:

      "Trademarking three digit numbers ..."
      "It's not exactly outside of the norm."

      Really?


      "The original Pentium branded CPUs were expected to be named 586 or i586, to follow the naming convention of previous generations (286, i386, i486). However, Intel was unable to persuade the court of law to allow them to trademark numbers (such as "i486")"
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pentium


      Also of interest - can you trademark a number?

      http://message.snopes.com/showthread.php?t=46044

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 10:09am

        Re: Re:

        "Really?"

        Yes, really. That single Pentium example does not make three-digit trademark registrations some extraordinary thing.

        Also, while I wouldn't recommend Snopes for legal advice, that link supports the notion that number trademarks are no big deal: "Yes, you can trademark numbers (just as you can other words and phrases) for specific uses, and Boeing does in fact hold trademarks for model numbers such as 737."

         

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          identicon
          abc gum, Jul 22nd, 2011 @ 5:06am

          Re: Re: Re:

          "Yes, really. That single Pentium example does not make three-digit trademark registrations some extraordinary thing"

          Is not getting their three-digit trademark outside the norm?

           

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    non-anonymous coward (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 6:25am

    Check out my new Beer

    I've decided to market my own classic American pilsner. It's called:

    1-800-DIAL-BUD

    I just registered the trademark this morning. I'm asking the techdirt community to please let me know if anyone is stealing my mark.

     

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    Overcast (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:08am

    Lame...

     

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    Vidiot (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 7:34am

    Turnpike trademarks

    Flying Fish, a NJ microbrewery, has a collection of ales named after exits on the NJ Turnpike... Exit 1, near the Delaware Bay, inspires "Exit 1 - Bayshore Oyster Stout"; Exit 9, near Rutgers University's Scarlet Knights, gets "Exit 9 - Hoppy Scarlet Ale". And so on. The old joke is, "You're from Joisy? What exit?"; and this capitalizes on it big-time. So... trademark time for the words "Exit 3"?

     

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    identicon
    Anonymous Coward, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 8:02am

    What is all this about area code?

    312 is the average daily road kill used in Chicago beer.

     

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    The Incoherent One (profile), Jul 21st, 2011 @ 8:52am

    A beer by that company regardless of name will lack substantially in areas of; flavor, body, color, and taste. I will stick to my craft and micro-brews thank you.

     

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    identicon
    MAC, Jul 21st, 2011 @ 12:29pm

    Rediculous

    Ok AB, so that will be $250.00 US per year to use my er your local area code on my letters...
    Wait, letters are no longer valid because everyone uses email!
    Rubbish, email can be hacked, mess with a letter and you will face the postal inspectors!
    Besides, we really don't want the art of handwriting to disappear now do we?
    I like paper, its nice, does not require electricity, lasts for centuries and cannot be altered without leaving a trail that can be detected.
    PAPER RULES!

     

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    indieThing (profile), Jul 22nd, 2011 @ 3:42am

    If you believe the Google ads

    3, the mobile operator have a trademark on this number :)

    I think it may be the particular expression though, as their logo is a nicely designed number 3.

     

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