Friday, August 18, 2006

BALASHI Not Primarily Geographically Descriptive of Beer from Aruba

In In re Brouwerij Nacional Balashi (August 2, 2006), the U.S. Trademark Trial and Appeal Board decided that the marks "BALASHI BEER" and "BALASHI" were not primarily geographically descriptive of beer.

As a general proposition, in order for registration of a mark to be properly refused on the ground that it is primarily geographically descriptive of an applicant's goods or esrvices, it is necessary to establish (i) that the primary significance of the mark is that of the name of a place generally known to the public and (ii) that the public would make a goods/place or services/place association, that is, believe that the goods or services for which the mark is sought to be registered originate in that place. . . .

[I]n dealing with the supposed reactions of a segment of the American public, in this case the average American beer consumer and not the unusually well-traveled tourist or even the aficionados of foreign beers, the isolated area or neighborhood of Balashi in the Caribbean island of Aruba is simply so minor, remote and obscure that its geographic significance would not be known or otherwise readily apparent to purchasers of applicant's beer. To be sure, the average American beer consumer, after perhaps quaffing a few "brews" while spending some time lying around on, or at least contemplating a vacation to, the white sand beaches of Aruba that serve as the island's principal tourist destinations, might have occasion to research and/or check out whatever other attractions, including gold mine ruins, a large desalination plant and applicant's brewery, would be of interest as a side trip to the locale of Balashi. The geographical significance, however, of the term "Balashi" would not be apparent without, at a minimum, consulting sources of tourism information. We consequently hold that, on this record, the Examining Attorney has failed to establish that the term "Balashi" is a place name which is generally known, that is, is not remote or obscure in its geographical significance, to American beer consumers and thus has not shown a reasonable basis for concluding that the marks "BALASHI BEER" and "BALASHI" are primarily geographically descriptive of applicant's goods within the meaning of the statute.

Aruba is a 32 km long island in the Caribbean Sea, 27 km north of the Paraguaná Peninsula, Falcón State, Venezuela, and it forms a part of the Kingdom of the Netherlands.

Brouwerij Nacional Balashi was founded in 1996 by one of Aruba’s largest companies, MetaCorp. Construction started in 1998 and the first beer was brewed eight months later in May 1999. In 2001, Balashi, the flagship beer for the company, won a gold medal in the prestigious “Monde Selection” in Brussels. Balashi was the brewery’s first uniquely Arubian product, with malt imported from Scotland, hops from Germany, and made using the island’s water. Balashi contains no artificial additives, and is now being exported to Curaçao and Bonaire.

Balashi has been described as tasting like a Dutch pilsner, most likely due to the Dutch heritage of its native Aruba.

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