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AB InBev Wins Court Fight Over Bud EU Trademark for Beer

Anheuser-Busch InBev NV won back its European Union trademark right on the word “Bud” for beer and other products after an EU court rejected a challenge by Czech competitor Budejovicky Budvar NP.

The EU General Court in Luxembourg today rejected Budvar’s appeal of AB InBev’s right to the EU trademark because the Czech company presented insufficient proof of the existing use of the name in some European countries.

AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer, and Czech rival Budvar have been entangled in disputes over the use of the Bud brand for more than a century, as each brewer won and lost the rights in different rulings. Anheuser-Busch, founded by German-born American Adolphus Busch, said it started using the Budweiser name in 1876, 19 years before Budvar was formed.

Budvar didn’t give the EU trademark agency “any item of evidence capable of showing the use -- before the date of filing of Anheuser-Busch’s application” in July 1996 “of an earlier sign in the course of trade of more than mere local significance,” the EU court said today.

“We are not pleased with the verdict,” Helena Votrelova, Budvar’s lawyer, said in an e-mailed statement. “But because it is not a final one, we will consider, after a diligent study, our chances for overturning the decision and whether we will appeal to the European Court. Today’s decision won’t affect our business activities in the EU countries.”

Original Czech

The EU’s trademark agency had previously rejected Budvar’s opposition to Anheuser-Busch’s claim to the name based on lack of evidence for its prior rights. The Czech company markets its beer as Budvar in some places with the word Budweiser in smaller print, and in others as Bud, adding “original Czech.”

Budvar claims so-called appellation of origin or geographic-indication rights, an EU protection for products associated with a certain region, arguing its beer comes from Ceske Budejovice, which is called Budweis in German.

AB InBev said the decision helps the company “fill in those few remaining gaps” where it doesn’t hold the rights to the name. “We will now have virtually world-wide protection for the Bud or Budweiser brands,” the Leuven, Belgium-based company said in an e-mailed statement.

The cases are: T-225/06 RENV, T-255/06 RENV, T-257/06 RENV, T-309/06 RENV, Budejovicky Budvar v. OHMI - Anheuser-Busch.

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