The David and Goliath battle between Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar and the world's largest brewer Anheuser-Busch over which company has the right to the Budweiser brand has taken another turn this week with a victory for the US group in New Zealand.
The two companies are involved in lawsuits throughout the world, and the New Zealand ruling will come as a particular shock to Budvar as it reverses an earlier decision in its favour. A-B said in a statement that New Zealand's Court of Appeal had reversed the High Court decision and had ordered Budejovicky Budvar to stop importing, advertising, or selling beer under the Budweiser name.
The ruling follows other recent victories for A-B in Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Spain and Italy. Budejovicky Budvar has won recent cases in South Korea, Taiwan, Australia, Denmark, Germany, Portugal, the UK, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Greece, Finland and the Baltic States.
Budejovicky Budvar, which claims the sole rights to the Budweiser name because it is the only company which makes beer in the town after which the beer is named (Ceske Budejovice, or Budweis as it is called in German), sells its beer under the names Budejovicky Budvar and Budweiser Budvar in New Zealand, and A-B contended that the latter name broke NZ's trademark laws.
The ruling does not affect the Budejovicky Budvar brand, which can still be sold legally in New Zealand, as it has been since 1996. The original ruling by the High Court had claimed that there would be no risk of Budweiser Budvar being confused with the American brand - a fair enough claim given that both brands are sold under those names in other markets, such as the UK, without any problem.
The Budweiser vs. Budweiser battle has been going on for years now in courts all over the world, and the Czech firm said it was involved in 40 judicial disputes and more than 40 additional proceedings at patent authorities against Anheuser-Busch.