The folks over at Bourgogne Des Flandres can breathe a little easier after this decision from the United States Patent and Trademark Office’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board reversed the Trademark Examining Attorney’s refusal to register their trademark on the grounds that it is generic an incapable of identifying their beer and therefore should be registered under 15 U.S.C. 1091(c).

Essentially, you can’t register a trademark that would be a generic term for the beverage you are looking to register, so a beer called a California Common or a wine called Pinot Gris or a whiskey called Kentucky Bourbon would likely not receive trademark approval.

In this case, Bourgogne applied for registration and was rejected because the name translates to Burgundy of Flanders, which the examining attorney found was a name that referred to a type of beer that is a “typical and common beer in West Flanders.”

The Appeal Board disagreed.  What’s important is the extent to which the Board and the examining attorney performed online investigations into whether the name was really a generic term or whether the beer drinking public understood it to be a brand of beer (like we all do) that’s been around since 1911.

The opinion lists the plethora of websites consulted in determining that Bourgogne Des Flandres was a brand and not generally understood as a “type” of beer, including:

Many of these websites are quoted or excerpted from for the Board’s general proposition that Bourgogne is generally understood as a brand of Flanders Red and not as another name for a Flanders Red.  So pay attention to your reviews and websites describing what you’re peddling because they could end up as an authoritative source in any attempt to protect your brand.

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