The Italian Court of Cassation has confirmed that the US beer group Anheuser-Busch has the sole right to use the Budweiser and Bud names in Italy, a ruling which obliges Czech group Budejovicky Budvar to stop selling its beer under that name.
The battle between the two companies over which has the rights to the Budweiser brand has been going on for years in markets all over the world, and there are currently at least 40 lawsuits pitching the European group against its American rival. There has been no real pattern to the decision, with A-B winning in some countries and Budejovicky Budvar in others. The legal battle in the Italian market began in 1985.
A-B said that the Czech group was obliged to comply immediately with the Italian court's decision, and added that the judges had rejected all of Budvar's complaints against Anheuser-Busch.
"The decision of the Italian Court of Cassation which confirms the invalidity of Budejovicky Budvar's denomination of origin claim for the terms Budweiser and Bud confirms that these terms have no relevance when it comes to beer," said Steve Burrows, president and chief executive officer of Anheuser-Busch International.
"Anheuser-Busch first began using the brand name Budweiser in 1876, some 19 years before Budejovicky Budvar was founded. Anheuser-Busch is the brewer which has successfully sold beer under the Budweiser and Bud brand throughout the world," he added, suggesting perhaps that the Czech group's legal action was more a question of wanting to cash in on the success of the Budweiser name than of wishing to protect a local denomination.
The Court of Cassation also sent a separate lawsuit back to the Court of Appeal in Milan which related to Anheuser-Busch's attempt to prevent Budejovicky Budvar from using other brand names for its beer which might be confused with the terms Budweiser or Bud.
A-B said that the Italian victory came after other recent success against Budvar in Argentina, Australia, Denmark, Finland, Spain and New Zealand. A-B's Budweiser beer brand is sold in more than 80 countries worldwide. In Italy, the brand is produced under licence by Peroni.