Hold on to your lederhosen! Munich seeks Oktoberfest monopoly

Festival organisers around the world may face fee as city applies for property rights

Ireland’s Oktoberfest organisers may be left crying in their beer at news that Munich has moved to monopolise the rights to its world famous drink-in.

With its cavernous tents and swaying crowds in lederhosen and dirndls, an intellectual property application by the Bavarian capital could prove to be as controversial as the Oktoberfest’s €10 glasses of beer.

‘Wave of lawsuits’

A successful application would oblige organisers of alternative Oktoberfests around the world – from Dublin to Shanghai – to buy a licence from the city of Munich or face legal action.

“The aim of the brand registration is to protect the name of the Munich Oktoberfest as a unique, original Munich event,” said Wolfgang Nickl, spokesman for Munich’s economics department.


The city invests considerably in the festival, he told the city's tz newspaper, but has struggled in recent years to secure that image outside the Bavarian capital.

The license application with EUIPO, Europe’s intellectual property office, covers all aspects of Oktoberfest: the festival itself, beer and other drinks, soap, toothpaste, paper products and all forms of advertising and Oktoberfest-related tourism. Publicans, hoteliers, and even travel agents who advertise using the Oktoberfest name would, in future, only be allowed do so for a fee.

While city officials insist “no one need fear a wave of lawsuits”, German legal experts in the field of intellectual property have said to expect legal “carnage” if the EUIPO accedes to Munich’s monopoly request.

"The Munich legal practice registering the trademark is a feared opponent in this field," said Mr Karsten Prehm, a trademark lawyer from Kiel, to tz.

Each year, the month-long Oktoberfest attracts around six million guests.

Considerable costs

They leave an estimated €1 billion in the Bavarian capital, but this is mostly with hotels, restaurants, and the brewers with exclusive Oktoberfest rights.

Munich city councillors see an Oktoberfest license as a way of generating income to cover their own considerable costs, such as increased security which is likely this year in the wake of recent violent attacks.

This year’s 183rd Oktoberfest will begin September 17th on the city’s Theresienwiese meadow, a vast space the size of 68 soccer pitches.

The festival was first held in Munich in 1810, to celebrate the wedding of Bavaria’s King Ludwig to his bride Therese.

Despite record growth, many locals – turned off by the crowds of drunken tourists and overpriced beer – either leave Munich entirely or head to one of the smaller beer festivals outside the city.

Derek Scally

Derek Scally

Derek Scally is an Irish Times journalist based in Berlin