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InBev Attempts to Trademark Pennsylvania Area Code

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Though Disney was finally shamed into abandoning its attempt to trademark the term "Seal Team Six," InBev is now trying to trademark the area codes of 15 US cities.

Eric Heyl of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review is alarmed that "the Belgians are hijacking a piece of Western Pennsylvania" as application #85326213 wends its way through the approval process.

Writes Heyl:

An InBev spokesperson declined to disclose why the company wants to trademark the numbers. But speculation in several industry publications is that the brewer might launch a line of city-specific beers that would carry area code names.

Regardless of the reason, will people in this region let the Belgians get away with pilfering our beloved numerical prefix?

Cynthia Lynch of the US Patent and Trademark Office tells Heyl there is "no legal prohibition against trademarking area codes," saying, "In general, trademarks can be various combinations of numbers, letters and words."

So, what will InBev be doing with its new collection of telephone prefixes?

The company won't say, but intellectual property attorney Scott Slavick tells the Chicago Tribune, "My guess is they want to come out with sort of local-sounding beer products. People enjoy thinking that they're getting beer from a particular area."

Last month, Fiona Roberts of the Daily Mail explained that the trademark filing came shortly after "the firm acquired the makers of Goose Island's 312 Urban Wheat Ale, which is named after Chicago's telephone code. "The beer has become the city's second most popular craft brand since it was launched in 2004, and it seems Anheuser-Busch is hoping to follow on from its marketing success."

According to Andrew Huff of Chicago blog Gapers Block, other area code trademarks in the beer category turned up a handful registered to Connecticut-based Stony Creek Brewery, LLC. The brewery seems to be nonexistent other than the name and its trademarks, which include 203 (Bridgeport, CT), 401 (Providence, RI), 516 (Long Island/Nassau County, NY), 617 (Boston), 860 (Hartford, CT) and 917 (New York, NY cell phones). It does not appear any of these have been brought to market.

As for the reaction among beer drinkers, Huff says it has been mixed -- with Eddie Glick of the BeerDorks blog expressing one of the strongest negative reactions.

"Frankly, it makes a mockery of 'drink local,'" he told Huff in an email. "What makes it local to someone in St. Louis or Nashville? Naming it after a f*cking area code? Sounds like something cooked up in a creative conference room by copywriters who don't know or care about beer. I can see some craft beer people not caring and giving it a chance. Not everyone has as strict a set of beer morals as those who are dedicated to drinking locally brewed craft beer. Some people only care what it tastes like."

Then, last week, a bizarre twist in what is a decidedly loopy story to begin with.

Goose Island, the local beer that started it all, announced it was moving production of its famed 312 ale from upstate New York.
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