Bud battle back to Finland

European Court leaves decision on using 'Budweiser' name to Finns

Nov 17, 2004 - The European Court of Justice has left the issue of whether the name "Budweiser" could be used by two competing brewers up to to Finland's national court.


The ruling by the European Union's highest court is the latest round in top U.S. brewer Anheuser-Busch's (Research) century-long dispute with state-owned Czech rival Budejovicky Budvar over the rights to the "Budweiser" and "Bud" brands.

A-B hailed the ruling. "This decision is an important step for Anheuser-Busch in Finland where we registered the trademarks for 'Bud' and 'Budweiser' in 1986 and 1990 respectively, years before Budejovicky Budvar introduced its beer there," said Steve Burrows, chief executive officer and president of Anheuser-Busch International. "We look forward to the Finnish Supreme Court's final ruling."

In 2000, the Finnish Court of Appeals ordered Budejovicky Budvar to cease using the name "Budweiser" on its beer products in Finland. The Czech brewer appealed this ruling, and the case was referred by the Finnish Supreme Court to the ECJ for a ruling on the interpretation of European law.

In making sending the matter back to the Finish court, the justices said: "It is for the national court to examine whether the consumers targeted are likely to interpret the sign, as it is used by Budvar, as designating the undertaking from which the goods originate and, thus, as serving to distinguish the goods in question."

If Budvar was using Budweiser as a trade mark or badge of origin, Anheuser could claim the full protection of European law, the court said.

But if it was used as a "trade or company name," Finnish courts needed to decide what protection Anheuser could claim. Using a trade name that was identical or similar to a trademark could infringe the trademark owner's rights, the court said, but might be permitted if it was done in good faith.

The court said Finnish judges would also need to rule whether Budvar's trade name was protected in Finland.

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