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Breweries Must Share 'Budweiser' Name, British Court Rules

Jan 15, 2013
Originally published on January 16, 2013 6:54 am

The word "Budweiser" will continue to mean two different things in Britain, where the brand name has been a bone of contention for more than a decade. The U.K. Supreme Court has ruled against Anheuser-Busch InBev's request to stop Czech brewery Budvar from selling beer under the Budweiser name.

Budvar is much smaller than its AB-Inbev-owned rival. And while Anheuser-Busch was first to seek to trademark the Budweiser name in Britian, the Czech company entered the British market one year ahead of the then-St. Louis-based brewer, according to Reuters.

Tuesday's ruling is being seen as the end of one battle among many. It comes more than two years after a European Union ruling that quashed AB-InBev's attempt to to register the Budweiser name as its trademark — an attempt that was contested by Budvar.

"Currently there are about 40 trademark dispute cases pending in different jurisdictions and some 70 procedural issues up for consideration around the world," Budvar says on its website. The company cites recent victories in Japan, South Korea, Greece, Portugal, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and New Zealand.

Those venues expose the ambitious growth strategies of both companies, which for decades operated under a form of detente, agreeing to confine themselves to certain geographic regions when they sold beer under the "Budweiser" name.

On its British website, Budvar calls itself "The Original." While its home city of Ceske Budejovice (or, in German, Budweis) first began producing beer 500 years before the founding of the United States, the Budvar brewery wasn't founded until 1895 — 19 years after the Budweiser name was chosen for a new beer being made in St. Louis.

We must also note that Budweiser's corporate roots aren't as American as they once were. It is now owned by global giant AB InBev, which is headquartered in Belgium.

According to the AP, Budvar reported record exports for 2012, sending "657,000 hectoliters (17.36 million gallons) of beer to 58 countries last year, the best result in 117 years."

That number pales next to Budweiser's sales figures, which nearly hit 400 million hectoliters worldwide in 2011, Reuters says.

Despite their dispute over an essential brand name, Budweiser and Budvar reached an agreement in 2007 that named Anheuser-Busch as the U.S. importer of Budvar's beer.

In Britain, AB InBev has used the Budweiser name to sponsor high-profile sporting events in recent months, from NFL games to soccer. Budweiser was also the official beer of the London 2012 Summer Olympics.

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