EU Court Rules For Budvar

December 17th, 2008 | Posted by Jay Brooks

The EU’s Court of First Instance ruled yesterday that in prior rulings, the European Trademark Agency had “made several errors,” when they went against Budejovicky Budvar and accepted Anheuser-Busch’s arguments over trademark issues in Europe between the two rival breweries. This effectively undoes the trademark for A-B’s “Bud” brand name in the EU’s 27 member nations.

According to the AP report, the upshot is that “Anheuser-Busch can no longer claim trademark rights for the entire EU region but must rely on separate national trademarks.”

From the AP Article:

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.

There were actually three separate judgments rendered today by the Court of First Instance over different aspects if this on-going dispute. If appealed, the case will go to the European Court of Justice.

The rulings, while each is distinct, all follow similar language, as follows.

Judgment T-225/06 Budějovický Budvar v OHMI – Anheuser-Busch (BUD) Intellectual property

Community trade mark – Action, brought by the proprietor of the right to use the protected appellation of origin ‘BUD’ to designate beer, for the annulment of Decision R 234-2005-2 of the Second Board of Appeal of the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) of 14 June 2006 dismissing the appeal against the decision of the Opposition Division which refused the opposition filed by the applicant against the application for registration of the word mark ‘BUD’ in respect of goods in Classes 32 and 33

Forbes has additional analysis on the ruling entitled AB Inbev suffers a setback in its attempt to win Europe-wide rights to the trademark the name ‘Bud.’

Their take:

Czech beer maker Budejovicky Budvar won its attempt to ban AB InBev’s application for a community trademark that would have given the Belgian brewer the exclusive right to use the word “Bud” on its beers across all 27 member states of the European Union. A firm cannot acquire region-wide rights if another company holds a separate national trademark, even if it is just in one of the states.

Budvar had used what is referred to as “appellation of origin”–used to protect a name on the basis of geographical origin–to claim trademark rights in several countries such as France and Austria. Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in the Czech city of Ceske Budejovice—an area called “Budweis” by the German-speaking people that lived there at the time, according to the Associated Press. The founders of Anheuser-Busch had thus originally picked the name “Budweiser” because it was well-known in their German homeland.

An Appeal by A-B InBev is likely, so I don’t think we’ve heard the last of this dispute, which so far is more than 100 years old.

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One Response to “EU Court Rules For Budvar”

  1. Bob Marshall Says:

    I guess AB Inbev just won’t admit that they stole the name in the first place, back in the 1870′s before trademarking became common. The story, as I understand it, is that the original Mr. Anheuser sent his new son-in-law, Augustus Busch the 1st, to tour the breweries of Europe to learn as much as he could about brewing before he joined the firm. He came home with a recipe and the name Budweiser from a brewery in the Budejovice region of what was then Bohemia. It became a huge hit in America, and the rest is history.

    Does AB Inbev really think that this little Czech brewery is a major threat to their existence? Maybe instead of paying millions of dollars to lawyers to fight this, they should have spent that money on brewing a better beer. There is no comparison between AB’s Budweiser and Budvar. Budvar is a REAL beer, not a watered-down rice beer. I’m sure the modern Budweiser bears no resemblance to the original recipe brought back from Budweis.