U.S. branded "Budweiser" not protected in Europe

March 25, 2009 4:40:24 AM PDT
Anheuser-Busch InBev has lost a battle to the "Budweiser" name after an EU court rejected its claim to register the word as a Europe-wide trademark.

U.S.-based Anheuser-Busch - now renamed Anheuser-Busch-InBev after a $52 billion takeover by Belgium's InBev - and smaller Czech rival Budejovicky Budvar NP haggled for years over the name, once also the name of Czech town famous for its fine beers.

The European Court of First Instance upheld a 2007 decision, saying the right to use the famous "Budweiser" name has already been legally claimed by Anheuser-Busch's rival Czech brewer in several EU countries.

Budvar registered the name as a trademark in 1991 with the EU trademark agency, five years before Anheuser-Busch.

The EU court said the 2007 decision by the EU's trademark agency, which oversees both national and EU-wide trademarks was justified. The agency upheld Budvar's trademark in Austria and Germany and rejected Anheuser-Busch's appeal.

The court said the U.S. brewer's trademark application was "identical to the earlier international word mark 'Budweiser' protected" in the two countries.

Anheuser-Busch had argued it had the right to trademark the well known brand-name for "beer, ale, porter, malted alcoholic and nonalcoholic beverages."

The court said that description was too similar to Budvar's earlier trademark for "Budweiser" using it for "beers of any kind."

Wednesday's ruling was the latest blow to Anheuser-Busch Inbev over efforts to protect its brand-name assets on the European market.

Anheuser-Busch Inbev also lost a case in December when the EU court scrapped a trademark for the brewer's famous "Bud" beer name in Europe.

It was not clear whether Wednesday's ruling would affect sales of Anheuser-Busch InBev products. The company said after December's ruling that the ruling posed no practical problems in selling their brand names in European countries saying they would rely on other already existing national trademarks to protect their brand names.

Anheuser-Busch had filed several trademark applications between 1996 and 2000 to protect its most iconic beer brand "Budweiser" and "Bud." Its trademark had covered the use of the word "Bud" on signs, beer labels and promotional goods in the 27 nations of the EU.

The exclusive use of the famous names have seen a number of legal challenges by Budvar, which itself lays claim to the use of the brand and still brews beer in the southern Czech town of Ceske Budejovice - also known as Budweis.

It was not yet clear whether Anheuser-Busch will appeal the two rulings.

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