Budweiser trademark dispute

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The Budweiser trademark dispute is an ongoing series of legal disputes between three beer companies who claim trademark and geographic origin rights to the name "Budweiser". The dispute has been ongoing since 1907, and has involved more than 100 court cases around the world.


Beer brewing in the city of České Budějovice (German: Böhmisch Budweis), which was then in the Kingdom of Bohemia and today in the Czech Republic, dates back to the 13th century,[1] when the city was granted brewing rights during the reign of Ottokar II of Bohemia. During the time when both Czech and German were official languages in the kingdom, two breweries were founded in the city that made beer which they called "Budweiser". In 1876, the American brewer Anheuser-Busch began making a beer which it also called "Budweiser".


Three breweries currently claim rights to the word "Budweiser":

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev has marketed "Budweiser" in the United States and Canada since 1876. As of 2014, AB InBev had 150,000 employees globally and sold 400M hectoliters of beer annually.[2]
  • Budweiser Budvar Brewery (Czech: Budějovický Budvar, národní podnik) is a state-owned brewery founded in 1895 by Czech-speaking citizens of Budweis. As of 2014, it employed 600 people and sold 1.4M hectoliters of beer annually.[2]
  • Budweiser Bier Bürgerbräu (Czech: Budějovický měšťanský pivovar) was founded in 1795 by German-speaking citizens of Budweis, and began exporting beer under the "Budweiser Bier" name to the United States in 1875. The company was expropriated by the state in 1945, and abandoned use of the Budweiser name at that time.[3] However, after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, the government restored the company's rights in Czechoslovakia.[3]

Legal theories[edit]

Anheuser-Busch cites prior registration of the trademark in the United States and battles for the right to use it worldwide in many legal disputes against the Europe-based companies in several countries. The Europeans wish to maintain or regain their right to market their beer under their traditional trademark. The two companies in Budweis point out that Budweiser is not a generic name, but refers only to beer made specifically in the city of Budweis (i.e., a protected geographical indication).

History of the dispute[edit]

In 1907, American and Bohemian brewers made an agreement that Anheuser-Busch could market its beer as Budweiser only in North America, while the Bohemian brewers had the rights to the European markets. Anheuser-Busch markets its product as "Bud" (in France and elsewhere) and "Anheuser-Busch B" (in Germany, Austria and Switzerland), where the beer brewed in the original city retains the rights to the name. The United Kingdom and Ireland are some of the few places where both Anheuser-Busch and Budvar beer are sold under the name "Budweiser".

In 2007, Anheuser-Busch signed a deal with Budějovický Budvar, the maker of the Czech Budweiser, to import Budvar Budweiser into the United States and sell it under the name Czechvar.[4] The partnership with AB InBev was terminated in January 2012[5], and in July of that year, United States Beverage began responsibility for the sales and marketing of Czechvar in the United States.[6]

In 2009, the European Court of First Instance upheld a ruling that denied AB InBev the ability to register the Budweiser brand as a European Community trademark.[7] After the ruling, AB InBev decided to keep the Budweiser or Bud name in 23 of 27 European countries. In Germany, Budvar has exclusive control over the Budweiser brand name since May 2009.[8] In the U.K., courts have ruled that neither company has exclusive rights to the name Budweiser.[9][10] According to the verdict of Court of Justice of the European Union in July 2010, Budweiser Budvar has exclusive control over the Budweiser brand name in the whole European Union.[11][12]

According to the British Budweiser Budvar website, "Currently [in 2012] there are about 40 trademark dispute cases pending in different jurisdictions and some 70 procedural issues up for consideration around the world".[13]

In 2013, Budweiser Budvar won a case against AB InBev in Italy, requiring AB InBev to rebrand their Budweiser as Bud in Italy.[14]

Until January 2013, the Czech Budweiser Budvar won 89 of the 124 dealt cases with the American Budweiser (eight ended in a draw or conciliation).[15]


See also[edit]

  • Havana Club: trademark controversy between American and state-owned distilleries over a rum brand


  1. ^ Harper, Timothy; Oliver, Garrett (1997). The Good Beer Book, p.68. New York: Berkley. ISBN 0-425-15614-1.
  2. ^ a b Cunningham, Benjamin (2014-01-27). "Where a Budweiser Isn’t Allowed to Be a Budweiser". Time. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  3. ^ a b "Centuries-old 'Budweiser Bier' heading for St Louis to take on American giant". Radio Prague. 2005-08-22. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  4. ^ Story of Czechvar Beer at czechvar.com. Note that the web page avoids the words Budvar or Budweis etc. using the abbreviation B.B.N.P. (Budějovický Budvar, národní podnik) as the name of the brewery and České Budějovice as the exclusive name of the city.
  5. ^ "Talks collapse in fight over Budweiser name". USA Today. 2012-12-08. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  6. ^ United States Beverage Named New U.S. Importer for Czechvar Beer
  7. ^ "JUDGMENT OF THE COURT OF FIRST INSTANCE (First Chamber) 25 March 2009". InfoCuria – Case-law of the Court of Justice. Retrieved 2012-04-12. In the present case, the Board of Appeal found that the evidence which Budvar produced was clearly sufficient to prove genuine use of the earlier international word mark BUDWEISER (R 238 203). The Board of Appeal referred, in particular, to advertisements showing images of Budvar beer bearing the mark BUDWEISER, to invoices sent to customers in Germany and Austria and to the fact that those advertisements and invoices related to the relevant period. 
  8. ^ Aaron O. Patrick (26 March 2009). "Czech Brewer Wins Suit Over Budweiser Naming Rights". Wall Street Journal. 
  9. ^ Media, Newton (2013-01-16). "UK Supreme Court ends Budweiser trademark row". World IP Review. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  10. ^ Trade Mark decision O/504/01 Intellectual Property Office
  11. ^ Carey, Susan; Kiviniemi, Peppi (29 July 2010). "EU Rejects Appeal for Bud Trademark". Wall Street Journal. 
  12. ^ Případ uzavřen: Značka Budweiser v EU patří do Českých Budějovic, rozhodl soud (Czech)
  13. ^ UK Budweiser Budvar website
  14. ^ Janicek, Karl (2013-10-08). "Budweiser Banned in Italy; Czech Budvar Wins Court Battle vs. AB InBev". DailyFinance. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  15. ^ Lordi potvrdili práva Budvaru v Británii. Americký rival s požadavky neuspěl (Czech)