A History Of GOLDEN GATE Trademarks For Alcoholic Beverages

by Foley Hoag LLP - Trademark, Copyright & Unfair Competition

In celebration of the Intellectual Property Owners Association’s Annual Meeting, currently underway in San Francisco, we offer a brief tour through some GOLDEN GATE-themed trademarks.  As a prominent feature of San Francisco’s geography, even before the iconic bridge was built, the Golden Gate is a popular theme in trademarks for local goods, both in word and image form.  For fun and focus, we have chosen to highlight GOLDEN GATE trademarks for alcoholic beverages.

California’s “Old Series” Trademarks

As we have previously reported, California’s Secretary of State recently released a digitized archive of trademark applications filed under California’s early trademark laws (which predate the Lanham Act) between 1861 and 1900.  This collection is a treasure trove of fascinating and beautiful product labels and features some lovely images of the Golden Gate strait pre-bridge used to identify wine and “champagne,” plus a rather bland label for beer (the images below are courtesy of the California State Archives):

Recent GOLDEN GATE Alcohol Marks

Fondness for GOLDEN GATE and Golden Gate-related imagery (now typically featuring the famous bridge) remains strong in the alcoholic beverage industry, and has led to some recent conflicts at the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office.

First out of the “Gate” appears to have been Seabrook & Co., which registered GOLDEN GATE for vodka in 1970 but failed to renew the registration, leading to its cancellation in 1992. In 1986, a Swiss company called Conalco S.A., which applied to register GOLDEN GATE for “beer and nonalcoholic malt beverages” but abandoned the application by failing to respond to an Office Action, the grounds for which are not apparent from the USPTO’s online database.  Gaetano Specialties registered CALIFORNIA CORDIALS GOLDEN GATE BRAND CRÈME DE MENTHE (and design) for liqueurs in 1990 but failed to file a Statement of Use six years later.  Golden Pacific Brewing Company registered GOLDEN GATE for beer, lager, and malt liquor in 1995, but it too failed to file a Section 8 declaration and lost its registration six years later (it appears to be out of business).  Pan-America Brewing Company filed an application to register SAN FRANCISCO GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE BEER for beer, but the application was rejected, presumably due to Golden Pacific Brewing’s application, which had been filed the previous year.  Finally, Golden State Vintners registered the GOLDEN GATE VINTNERS design mark below for “wines” in 2004, but failed to renew its registration in 2014 (it too appears to be out of business):

Before it was cancelled, however, the GOLDEN GATE VINTNERS registration served to block a 2010 application for GOLDEN GATE GRAPEVINE for wine, as well as a 2010 Madrid Protocol application filed by a Russian company for GOLDEN GATE in connection with “alcoholic beverages (except beers).”

This brings us to the current reigning monarch of GOLDEN GATE booze registrations, Golden Gate Brewing Company, which registered (through its apparent principal, Christopher Wilke) the design mark below in 2011 in connection with “ale; beer; lager; porter; stout”:

Despite submitting a specimen that does not in fact resemble the drawing of the mark:

This registration has blocked later-filed applications, including GOLDEN GATE IPA for beer (filed in 2014 and also conflicted with GOLDEN GATE VINTNERS) and GOLDEN GATE WHISKY for distilled spirits (filed in 2015).

In the wake of the demise of Golden State Vintners and the cancellation of its GOLDEN GATE VINTNERS application, Jean-Claude Boisette Wines has filed an intent-to-use application for GOLDEN GATE CELLARS, which received a Notice of Allowance in 2016.  There does not appear to be any relationship between this mark and the GOLDEN GATE WINE CELLARS operating out of San Francisco.  Finally, just a little over a month ago, Point Reyes Vineyards filed an intent-to-use application for GOLDEN GATE VINEYARDS for wines, which presumably will be refused in light of the prior-filed GOLDEN GATE CELLARS.

Looking at this history, a couple of takeaways appear (apart from the fact that the Bay Area likes to drink).  First, whether wine and beer are sufficiently related to cause consumer confusion appears to be somewhat random, but apart from poor GOLDEN GATE IPA, they have largely been allowed to coexist.  Second, although GOLDEN GATE is a geographic term, and many of the companies noted above are located in the Bay Area, none of the registrations or applications cited, as far as can be discerned, received a “merely geographically descriptive” rejection.  Perhaps “Golden Gate” is so fixed in the cultural imagination that it has lost its literal geographic significance?

In any event, we are looking forward to seeing the real GOLDEN GATE while in San Francisco for IPO.


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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