(St. Louis, MO) – Anheuser-Busch InBev has received a series of update from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on the dozens of trademark registration filings for airport codes that it submitted to the agency earlier this year.
Notably, ABI also abandoned its application for MKE (General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee). Milwaukee happens to be home to Miller Brewing Company headquarters. UPDATE: upon commenter’s point about Milwaukee Brewing Company, BeerPulse confirmed that the company filed a trademark registration application for MKE in July so there is likely a correlation.
Procedurally, what is known as an “office action” letter is common for the USPTO and to be expected in the case of ABI where the company only submitted the codes themselves as marks with no accompanying product information. The company has received a letter requesting more info for over three-quarters of the codes that it submitted (and may still receive a letter for the others). Here is an excerpt from one of the USPTO letters, showing what the agency is asking for from ABI:
To permit proper examination of the application, applicant must submit additional product information about the goods. See 37 C.F.R. §2.61(b); In re DTI P’ship LLP, 67 USPQ2d 1699, 1701-02 (TTAB 2003); TMEP §814. The requested product information should include fact sheets, instruction manuals, and/or advertisements. If these materials are unavailable, applicant should submit similar documentation for goods of the same type, explaining how its own product will differ. If the goods feature new technology and no competing goods are available, applicant must provide a detailed description of the goods.
The submitted factual information must make clear how the goods operate, their salient features, and their prospective customers and channels of trade. Conclusory statements regarding the goods will not satisfy this requirement.
The letters BWI are an abbreviation for Baltimore Washington International airport. See attached. As such, applicant must also respond to the following inquiries:
Will applicant’s goods be available in the Baltimore Washington International Airport?
Are applicant’s goods intended to be served only in Baltimore Washington International Airport?
What is the anticipated geographic scope of the availability and/or distribution of applicant’s goods in connection with applicant’s proposed mark?
Failure to respond to a request for information is an additional ground for refusing registration. See In re Cheezwhse.com, Inc., 85 USPQ2d 1917, 1919 (TTAB 2008); In re DTI, 67 USPQ2d at 1701-02. Merely stating that information about the goods is available on applicant’s website is an inappropriate response to a request for additional information and is insufficient to make the relevant information of record. See In re Planalytics, Inc., 70 USPQ2d 1453, 1457-58 (TTAB 2004).
ABI has until February of next year to respond to the USPTO’s requests and can still extend the process even into 2014.
In what may be another coincidence, Creneau International will open its Belgian Beer Café restaurant concept in airports in both Atlanta (ATL) and Newark (EWR) this fall. ABI filed a trademark application for the former but not the latter. ABI owns the rights to all non-U.S. franchises and licenses the Belgian Beer Café concept everywhere but in the U.S..
Below is the list of airport codes for which ABI has to send more information in order to proceed with the trademark registration process: