Budvar wins out against US brewer over Budweiser name


A CZECH brewery has taken the spoils in a long-running court dispute with US beer giant Anheuser-Busch over the right to use the Budweiser trademark, one of the most powerful brand names in the world.

The US company and Czech firm Budejovický Budvar have each sold beer as Budweiser since the late 19th century, and have been at loggerheads in the courts for decades over control of the term. The US Budweiser was for long dominant, but demand for the Czech brew advanced after the Iron Curtain came down.

Europe’s highest court yesterday dismissed an appeal by Anheuser-Busch against a judgment stopping it from registering exclusive ownership of the Budweiser name throughout the EU.

The European Court of Justice ruling is a victory for Budejovický Budvar, which feared losing the right to the name in the huge German beer market and Austria.

Eberhard Anheuser and Adolphus Busch created their Budweiser brand in 1875 in St Louis, Missouri. Known as “Bud” to aficionados, the lager and its sister brew Bud Light are the two-best selling beers in the world.

The company has the rights to the name in 23 of the 27 EU countries, among them Ireland, where the stuff is brewed under licence by Guinness-owner Diageo. In 2008 it changed its name to Anheuser-Busch InBev after it was acquired by Belgian group InBev.

It was in 1895 that Budejovický Budvar began brewing its Budweiser in the Czech town of Ceske Budejovice. The firm argues, however, that the name was used in the region long before that. In Ireland, its beer is sold as Budvar.

The case dates to 1996 when Anheuser-Busch sought to register Budweiser as an EU-wide trademark. Budvar successfully challenged this, as its brand was already registered in Germany and Austria. The Americans sued, but lost a ruling last year in Europe’s second-highest court. In its appeal, the company argued the protection afforded to Budejovický Budvar’s brand expired before the end of the period fixed for the submission of evidence. The higher court rejected this argument.

Anheuser-Busch InBev said the ruling has no effect on its European business or existing Bud and Budweiser rights. “Filing this application was an effort to further expand our extensive trademark rights and gain additional protections that we continue to believe are rightfully ours,” said spokeswoman Marianne Amssoms.