Czech beer Budvar wins trademark legal battle

Tuesday, December 16, 2008 | 11:43 a.m. CST

BRUSSELS, Belgium — A European Union high court on Tuesday scrapped a trademark for Anheuser-Busch's famous "Bud" beer name in Europe, handing a legal victory to Czech rival Budvar.

Anheuser-Busch's trademark had covered the use of the word "Bud" on signs, beer labels and promotional goods in the 27 nations of the EU. But the exclusive use of the famous names have seen a number of legal challenges by Budvar, which itself lays claim to the use of the brand.

The Luxembourg-based Court of First Instance said the EU's trademark agency had "made several errors" in previously rejecting arguments by Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar NP against Anheuser's trademark application.

The Czech company said it had already registered "Bud" under a 1958 agreement which protected the name as a geographical indicator of origin in France, Austria and the former Czechoslovakia.

The court ruled the trademark agency had to "take account of earlier rights" protected in member states, adding the agency had "made an error of law" in rejecting the use of the word and signs in the context of a commercial activity.

The ruling is part of a complex set of decisions about the name of Budweiser and its derivatives in Europe over the past years. The name can also be protected under separate nationally registered trademarks.

Anheuser-Busch Inc., which was taken over by Belgian brewer InBev this year, filed several trademark applications between 1996 and 2000 to protect its most iconic beer brand "Budweiser" and "Bud."

It was not yet clear whether Anheuser-Busch would appeal Tuesday's ruling.

A spokeswoman at Belgian-based AB InBev had no immediate reaction to the decision, while in Prague, Budvar spokesman Petr Samec said the company was "satisfied with the verdict."

The ruling follows separate decisions by the EU court last year which upheld several other Anheuser-Busch trademarks relating to the name "Budweiser" further confusing the two-way legal battle.

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in Ceske Budejovice — called Budweis by the German-speaking people that populated the area at the time. Beer has been brewed there since 1265.

The founders of Anheuser-Busch used the name Budweiser for their product because it was well-known in their German homeland. The St. Louis brewery started up in 1852. It began producing Budweiser, America's first national beer brand, in 1876.


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