Budweiser trademark dispute

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The Budweiser trademark dispute is an ongoing series of legal disputes between two 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 is now 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. Both breweries made beer which they called "Budweiser", similar to how brewers in the city of Pilsen made a beer generically called Pilsner.[2] In 1876, the American brewer Anheuser-Busch began making a beer which it also called "Budweiser", motivated in part by a desire to "brew a beer similar in quality, color, flavor and taste to the beer then made at Budweis", according to Adolphus Busch.[3]


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

  • Anheuser-Busch InBev has marketed "Budweiser" in the United States and Canada since 1876, and won a series of trademark confrontations to consolidate control of the Budweiser mark in the United States in the 1890s.[4] As of 2014, AB InBev had 150,000 employees globally and sold 400M hectoliters of beer annually.[3]
  • 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.[3]

In addition, 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.[5] However, after the fall of communism in Czechoslovakia, the government restored the company's rights in Czechoslovakia.[5] The parent company of Budweiser Bier Bürgerbräu, Samson, was acquired by AB InBev in 2014, in part to help support AB InBev's claim to the Budweiser mark.[6]

Legal theories[edit]

Anheuser-Busch cites prior registration of the trademark in the United States, and more recently its ownership of Budweiser Bier Bürgerbräu, when making a claim to the mark. The Budweis-based companies have argued in turn that Budweiser is generic, or is a protected geographical indication that refers to beer made specifically in the city of Budweis. Where possible, Budvar's claims are supported by proof of prior use (as in Germany).[7]

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.[citation needed] Since then, litigation has been extensive: according to the Budvar website, as of 2012 there were "about 40 trademark dispute cases pending in different jurisdictions and some 70 procedural issues up for consideration around the world".[8] As of January 2013, Budvar claimed to have won 89 of 124 cases against AB InBev, with an additional eight ending in a draw or settlement.[9]

Some recent cases include:

  • EU: In 2009, the European Court of First Instance ruled that AB InBev could not register the Budweiser mark as an EU-wide Community Trade Mark, because of Budvar's earlier use of the mark in Germany and Austria.[10] The ruling was upheld on appeal.[11][12] After the ruling, AB InBev decided to keep the Budweiser or Bud name in 23 of 27 European countries.[citation needed]
  • Germany: In Germany, Budvar has exclusive control over the Budweiser brand name since May 2009.[7]
  • UK: In the U.K., courts have ruled that neither company has exclusive rights to the name Budweiser.[13][14]
  • Italy: In 2013, Budvar won a case against AB InBev in Italy, requiring AB InBev to rebrand their Budweiser as Bud in Italy.[15]

Alternate brands[edit]

Where AB InBev has lost cases, it markets its product as "Bud" (as in Italy)[15] or as "Anheuser-Busch B" (in Germany).[16] in 2013, AB InBev was granted an EU-wide Community Trade Mark for the use of "Bud", after winning a related court case against Budvar.[17]

Where Budvar does not have rights, such as the United States, Canada, and Brazil, it uses the brand name Czechvar.[18] In 2007, AB InBev signed a deal with Budvar to sell Budvar Budweiser under the name Czechvar in the United States.[19] The partnership was terminated in January 2012,[20] and in July of that year, United States Beverage began responsibility for the sales and marketing of Czechvar in the United States.[21]


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. ^ "Patent Dispute Could Put Czech Brewer in A-B InBev’s M&A Crosshairs". WSJ Blogs - Deal Journal. 2008-07-16. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  3. ^ a b c Cunningham, Benjamin (2014-01-27). "Where a Budweiser Isn’t Allowed to Be a Budweiser". Time. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  4. ^ Ogle, Maureen (2007-10-08). Ambitious Brew: The Story of American Beer. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. p. 109. ISBN 0547536917. 
  5. ^ a b "Centuries-old 'Budweiser Bier' heading for St Louis to take on American giant". Radio Prague. 2005-08-22. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  6. ^ Rousek, Leos. "InBev Buys Brewery Where Budweiser Name Began". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  7. ^ a b Aaron O. Patrick (26 March 2009). "Czech Brewer Wins Suit Over Budweiser Naming Rights". Wall Street Journal. 
  8. ^ UK Budweiser Budvar website
  9. ^ Lordi potvrdili práva Budvaru v Británii. Americký rival s požadavky neuspěl (Czech)
  10. ^ "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. 
  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. ^ Media, Newton (2013-01-16). "UK Supreme Court ends Budweiser trademark row". World IP Review. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  14. ^ Trade Mark decision O/504/01 Intellectual Property Office
  15. ^ a b Janicek, Karl (2013-10-08). "Budweiser Banned in Italy; Czech Budvar Wins Court Battle vs. AB InBev". DailyFinance. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  16. ^ "Brew-ha-ha". The Economist. 1997-09-25. ISSN 0013-0613. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  17. ^ "OHIM approves AB InBev Bud trademark". World IP Review. 2013-06-26. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  18. ^ "Contact us". Czechvar. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  19. ^ 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.
  20. ^ "Talks collapse in fight over Budweiser name". USA Today. 2012-12-08. Retrieved 2015-09-05. 
  21. ^ United States Beverage Named New U.S. Importer for Czechvar Beer