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There’s no law against Budweiser calling its beer ‘America’

Budweiser branding
Budweiser is renaming its beer “America” to capitalize on three things central to American life: politics, sporting events and holiday weekends.
(Anheuser-Busch)

Will America take kindly to having its name used to sell beer?

This week, Budweiser -- which is owned by InBev, a Belgian beverage conglomerate -- announced that from now through November, Budweiser beer will simply be called "America."

The beer company is trying to capitalize on three things central to life in America: politics, sporting events and holiday weekends. The "America" cans will be sold through the presidential election on Nov. 8. That covers the Summer Olympics and soccer's Copa America competition, as well as Memorial Day, July 4th and Labor Day -- all occasions for barbecues and coolers full of cold beers.

“We are embarking on what should be the most patriotic summer that this generation has ever seen, with Copa America Centenario being held on U.S. soil for the first time, Team USA competing at the Rio 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games,” gushed Ricardo Marques, vice president at Budweiser, according to the Associated Press.

Reactions from citizens of America -- the country, not the beer, a distinction Budweiser has forced us to make -- ranged from "moderately amused" to "less than thrilled."

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Placing aside matters of taste, there's no legal problem with naming something "America" that isn't America.

According to records from the U.S. Patent and Trade Office website, Budweiser hasn't sought a trademark on the name. It's just putting the word on the cans, along with a few other patriotic words and phrases: "King of Beers" is becoming "E Pluribus Unum;" the AB logo, for Anheuser-Busch, will read "US"; and, somewhat ironically, "Trademark Registered" is being changed to "Indivisible Since 1776."

And that's a good thing. Valerie Barreiro, director of the intellectual property law clinic at USC, said "America" is too widely used to be trademarked.

"When you file for a trademark, if the word 'America' is included in your trademark, you disclaim America," she explained. "You acknowledge that you cannot claim exclusivity to the word 'America.'"

(A search of the Patent and Trade Office site did turn up one related result for Budweiser: In 2013, the company sought to trademark the phrase "BUDWEISER AMERICAMADEBETTER." The application was subsequently abandoned.)

Budweiser is far from the first company to invoke "America" in its products: Think of American Apparel, American Girl Dolls, America Online, American Airlines.

Will American consumers be fooled into thinking they're drinking liquid patriotism? Maybe. So-called consumer patriotism appears to spike around international sporting events. Technically, Budweiser is not owned by an American company, but it is brewed in the United States.

And let's be honest: It's going to be tough to resist the allure of Instagramming yourself cracking open a can of "America" at your Fourth of July party.

Tell Jessica what beer you're drinking this summer on Twitter @jessica_roy.


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