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Anheuser-Busch Files Trademark Applications for Area Codes

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312 Urban Wheat Ale by Seth Anderson on Flickr

Image by Seth Anderson on Flickr

Beer giant Anheuser-Busch InBev has filed applications to trademark 15 telephone area codes across the country, seemingly with an eye toward producing beer to be sold in specific markets.

Trademark applications for the following area codes have been filed with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in the International Class 32 (beer):

  • 202: Washington, D.C.
  • 214: Dallas
  • 215: Philadelphia
  • 216: Cleveland
  • 303: Denver
  • 305: Miami
  • 314: St. Louis
  • 412: Pittsburgh
  • 415: San Francisco
  • 602: Phoenix
  • 615: Nashville
  • 619: San Diego
  • 702: Las Vegas
  • 704: Charlotte
  • 713: Houston

Although Anheuser-Busch hasn’t officially commented on what it plans to do if the trademarks are granted, according to The Chicago Tribune, the move was likely spurred by the success of 312 Urban Wheat Ale, produced by Goose Island, which was recently acquired by Anheuser-Busch as part of Fulton Street Brewery.

The area code of Chicago is 312, and the beer is commonly simply called “312” by patrons. Indeed, the numbered ale came in as the second most popular craft beer in 2009 in Chicago.

Intellectual property lawyer Scott Slavick told the Tribune that his “guess is they want to come out with sort of local-sounding beer products” since “[p]eople enjoy thinking that they’re getting beer from a particular area.”

As explained by Slavick, if the USPTO approves the applications, the company would receive a “notice of allowance,” giving them “three years from that date to demonstrate use of [the] mark in order to get it registered.”

As we know and as Slavick also points out, however, a trademark doesn’t need to be registered in order for it to be in use, so the company could come out with new beers using area codes in these or any other markets whenever it likes.

What do you think about this attempt to trademark area codes? Should the applications be granted?

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July 25th, 2011 at 7:49 am