US beverages giant Anheuser-Busch InBev has lost its long battle to sell its beer under the 'Budweiser' brand across Europe. A European Court rejected its claim, saying the commercial right to use the term 'Budweiser' as a Europe-wide trademark already belongs to the small, state-owned Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar.
For over a hundred years the two beer makers have been locked in a fight to control the ownership of the Budweiser brand, based on claims of "historical rights". The Czech brewer has been producing a budweiser beer since 1876, and the Czech city of Ceske Budejovice, where Budvar is located, has also been known through history by its German name, Budweis. Budejovicky Budvar said it had registered the name in France, Austria and the former Czechoslovakia back in 1958.
On theother hand Anheuser-Busch says it has the right to the name as it first started brewing Budweiser in 1876, 19 years before Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895. Beer has been brewed in the Czech town since 1265.
Anheuser-Busch, which markets Budweiser and Bud Light beers, lost a similar fight six years ago to stop the Czech company selling beer in the UK under the ''Bud'' and 'Budweiser' trademarks. However, it has successfully stopped Budvar registering or using the 'Budweiser' name in Finland, Spain, Denmark, Argentina, Australia and New Zealand.
But now the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg delivered another rebuff to the American company, saying the commercial right for the name to be used for ''beer of any kind'' was already held in Germany and Austria by the Czech brewery.
They added that Anheuser-Busch could not register the very same word as an EU trademark for goods described in the court application as ''beer, ale, porter, malted alcoholic and non alcoholic beverages''.
The court found the Czech company had proved the validity of its ownership of the trade mark, submitting ''Budweiser'' advertisements and invoices addressed to customers in Germany and Austria dating back at least five years before Anheuser-Busch applied for an EU trademark for the word.
The court of First Instance upheld a 2007 decision by the EU's trademark agency, saying Budejovicky Budvar had already legally registered the name in several EU countries. Anheuser, therefore, could not be allowed an EU-wide trademark. The brewer is still free to sell beer using the Budweiser name under trademark agreements it holds with individual countries.
In January 2007, Anheuser-Busch and Budejovicky Budvar decided to end their century-long legal battle over the Budweiser brand name and formed a historic trade alliance, with Anheuser-Busch distributing its Czech rival's Budweiser, owned by the Czech government, in the US (See: From Budweiser v/s Budweiser to Budweiser alliance).
Anheuser-Busch, was founded by German emigrants in St Louis, Missouri in the 1860s. It has been renamed Anheuser-Busch-InBev after a $52-billion takeover by Belgian-Brazilian brewer InBev last year (See: World's largest brewer InBev proposes to create $100 billion company with $46 billion takeover of Anheuser-Busch).
Anheuser-Busch InBev is one of the world's top 5 consumer product companies manages a portfolio of nearly 300 brands and holds the number one or number two position in over 20 key markets.