Six One Nine Vodka and 619 Beer
Last July, I wrote about Anheuser-Busch InBev’s application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register 619 (a San Diego area code) as a trademark for beer, along with similar applications for thirteen other U.S. area codes. To date, A-B has not launched 619 Beer, and their trademark application is still classified as “Intent-to-Use.”
Around the same time, a friend of mine, Nick Apostolopoulous, mentioned his intention to launch a San Diego-based vodka company using the name Six One Nine Vodka. I informed him about the A-B issue, and he expressed some concern about trying to negotiate an agreement with such a large company. It seemed unlikely, at the time, that he would be able to survive a dispute over the brand name, and his fledgling enterprise could hardly afford an extended court battle to demonstrate that consumers would not confuse a beer brand and a vodka.
I’m pleased to report that Nick has successfully come to an agreement with A-B. While the details are private, I can share that A-B will retain the rights to the 619 brand in connection with beer, while Nick’s company will retain the rights in connection with spirits. No money has changed hands on either side.
Nick stated, “We were interested in launching 619 Vodka, a world-class spirit, not getting into a trademark dispute with a global brand. By getting good legal advice, and moving proactively, we were able to create a win-win – and at a very low cost to our company.”
Nick credited his general counsel, Paul Schroeder of Hirsch Closson, McMillan & Schroeder, APLC with helping him through this situation practically and economically.
This goes to show that even small startup businesses can successfully negotiate a mutually-beneficial agreement with a huge corporation. A-B deserves credit for its open-minded, fair, and reasonable approach. Rather than come off as a Trademark Bully, in this case they appear to be a good corporate actor and a supporter of an entrepreneurial venture.