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In re The Boston Beer Co.

United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit
198 F.3d 1370 (1999)


Facts

The Boston Beer Co. (Boston Beer) (plaintiff) filed an application to register the phrase “The Best Beer in America” with the United States Patent and Trademark Office on November 30, 1993. Boston Beer argued that it had used the phrase in its advertising since 1985 and that the phrase had obtained secondary meaning, making it distinct. This application was rejected on the ground that the term was a merely descriptive phrase that had been used by many other beer brands in the past. Boston Beer then appealed the examining attorney’s decision to the United States Patent and Trademark Office Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB). The application was remanded back to the examining attorney with the new evidence that Boston Beer had recently received awards at the Great American Beer Festival. The examining attorney found that the phrase was still a generic term that described any beer in America that had won a taste competition or award. Boston Beer then filed second and third supplemental briefs, arguing that there was no “best beer in America” award, and thus the term was not generically describing beers that won awards in America. The TTAB found that the phrase was merely descriptive and not generic. However, the TTAB still rejected Boston Beer’s application, because all competitors should have the opportunity to claim the superiority of their products or services, and there was no secondary meaning inherent in the descriptive phrase. Boston Beer then appealed the TTAB’s decision.

Rule of Law

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Issue

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Holding and Reasoning (Mayer, J.)

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  • A “yes” or “no” answer to the question framed in the issue section;
  • A summary of the majority or plurality opinion, using the CREAC method; and
  • The procedural disposition (e.g. reversed and remanded, affirmed, etc.).

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