Anheuser-Busch InBev has filed trademark applications with the USPTO seeking to protect “area codes” in major markets as brand names for beer. [INSERT DRUNK DIALING JOKE HERE].
Included in the list of area code beer names is 702 the area code for Las Vegas. Currently, A-B InBev owns the trademark “312” for beer (the area code for Chicago) and is apparently planning on expanding the area code brands across the country (or at least in major metropolitan markets which lend themselves to a single area code). Currently, A-B InBev has filed for the following area codes as federal trademarks for beer:
202 (Washington, D.C.)
314 (St. Louis)
415 (San Fransisco)
619 (San Diego)
702 (Las Vegas)
Whether or not use of a telephone area code is “geographically descriptive” is open for debate. As set out in the Trademark Manuel of Examining Procedure (TMEP), Section 1210.02(a), “A geographic location may be any term identifying a country, city, state, continent, locality, region, area or street.” TMEP Section 1210.02 states that, “A mark is primarily geographic if it identifies a real and significant geographic location, and the primary meaning of the mark is the geographic meaning.” Arguably, 702 identifies the geographic area within that area code, namely Las Vegas.
However, in reviewing other trademarks for the Las Vegas area code “702” only one of the trademarks, “The 702 Scene” was required to disclaim the area code, presumably on the basis of geographic descriptiveness. The trademark “702” for clothing was allowed without any disclaimer as was “702 MOTORING” for an auto parts store, “702DENTIST” for dental services, “BLACKBOOK702” for advertising and talent services, and “702 HELL” which is currently published for opposition for clothing.
If the trademark office does view the area code beer brands as “geographically descriptive,” then in order to register the trademarks, A-B InBev will most likely have to actually brew the beers within the area code identified on the label. This is because trademarks with geographically descriptive terms ordinarily need to originate in the location identified in the trademark or they are considered “geographically misdiscriptive.” (e.g. a trademark for cheese which contains the words “Wisconsin Cheese” better be for cheese actually made in Wisconsin or the public may be mislead). Geographic trademarks which are “geographically misdescriptive” will be refused by the trademark office.
For the benefit of each of the local economies located withing the area code beer brands I hope that A-B InBev actually does build breweries in each of those locales.