Late last month, the General Court of the European Union made a decision regarding the use of the product name BUD in Europe. This is one of the latest trademark rulings in a century- long battle between two rival companies who just happen to produce beer with the same name.
The “Budweiser” brand has been the subject of countless trademark disputes between Budweiser Budvar and Budweiser (Anheuser-Busch). The former is a Czech brewery located in České Budějovice (known as Budweis in German), founded in 1895, whose “Budweiser” beer name simply indicated the origin from which the beer was produced. The latter is an American company who first produced their "Budweiser" beer in 1876 for the United States and Canadian markets.
When Budvar started exporting their beer to the states with the “Budweiser” name, Anheuser-Busch (A-B) reacted, leading to a 1907 trademark dispute with both companies claiming the right to the name. Negotiations led to an agreement allowing Anheuser-Busch the use of “Budweiser” in North America only while Budvar had rights to the European market.
Over the years of battling it out over trademarks, both companies have been granted a variety of trademarks worldwide. To date, A-B markets its beer as Anheuser-Busch B in Germany, Switzerland and Austria and as Bud in France and other countries while Budvar must use the name “Czechvar” to sell its beer in the states. Here in the UK, Budweiser can be used by either company – a settlement which was very recently disputed by A-B.
A-B tried to gain exclusive rights to “Budweiser” in the UK, but the courts rejected the case explaining that due to their lengthy co-existence with Budvar and owing to the high sales of both company’s “Budweiser” beers, neither company should have rights over the other when it comes to the name of the beer.
Following on from the unfavourable UK trademark decision, the European Court’s granting A-B exclusive rights to the name “Bud” throughout the E-U is a vital win for the company. "This ruling is majorly important in that it will expand our already strong global protections for Bud and Budweiser. While there are only a few countries in Europe where we do not have a registration for Bud or Budweiser, this registration will fill in those few remaining gaps."
Budvar fought A-B on their claim, asserting that the “Bud” trademark was protected by the designation of its origin: since “Bud” refers to the Czech city, A-B shouldn’t be allowed to use it. Unfortunately, the recent court decision is a blow to Budvar’s desire to maintain the right to market their beer under their traditional trademark. No doubt for these rival companies, there will be more trademark battles to fight in the future.