Court defeats Anheuser-Busch bid for exclusive Budweiser rights

By Guy Montague-Jones

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Budejovicky budvar, European union

The European Court of Justice has ended a long-running brewing dispute, defeating an attempt by Anheuser-Busch to gain exclusive rights in the EU to the Budweiser trademark.

Back in 1996, the US brewer Anheuser-Busch, which has now become AB InBev, applied to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) for the rights to the Budweiser trademark but Budejovicky Budvar wasted little time in bringing opposition.

What followed was a long drawn out legal case in which Budejovicky Budvar argued that it had previously used the Budweiser name, protected, in particular, in Germany and Austria.

Bringing the case to an end, the Court of Justice upheld a previous decision to reject the Anheuser-Busch application for a Community trademark.

Reaction

Reacting to the news, AB InBev spokesperson Marianne Amssoms said: “This judgment has no effect on Anheuser-Busch InBev’s business in Europe or our existing Bud and Budweiser rights, which remain strong and intact. We have rights to the Bud or Budweiser trademark in 23 of the 27 European Union member states.

“Filing this application was an effort to further expand our extensive trademark rights and gain additional protections that we continue to believe are rightfully ours.”

Originally the OHIM threw out the Anheuser-Busch bid on the grounds that the mark applied for was identical to the previous one held by Budvar. Additionally, it said the goods listed in the Anheuser-Busch application were essentially identical to those covered by the earlier mark.

Challenges

Anheuser-Busch then challenged this judgment, firstly at the General Court and then at the level of the Court of Justice.

The brewing giant arguing that the protection offered by the Budvar mark had expired before the end of the period fixed for the submission of evidence. It challenged Budvar to submit evidence of the mark’s renewal within that period.

But the Court of Justice ruled that Budvar was not obliged to provide evidence of renewal of its earlier mark within the period in question. Indeed, the Court said Budvar would have been obliged to provide such evidence only if the OHIM had specifically asked for it, which was not the case.

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