Budvar mulls its next appeals

Czech firm disappointed, but experts say legal costs are worthwhile investment

Budějovický Budvar has indicated it may appeal after suffering a setback in the latest ruling in its century-long legal dispute with an American rival, following a European Union court’s decision that it did not deserve sole rights over the Bud name in the 27-member bloc.

The České Budějovice-based Budějovický Budvar saw the legal challenge it mounted in the EU General Court rejected, with judges ruling in favor of Anheuser-Busch InBev (ABI).

The court’s decision, which overturns a 2008 ruling, was made after judges decided Budějovický Budvar had failed to demonstrate its use of the name “Bud” in EU countries was sufficiently widespread for it to have sole rights to the trademark.

Legal disputes between Budějovický Budvar and its rival, founded in the United States but now Belgian-owned, started in 1907, according to the Czech company.

Budějovický Budvar’s lawyer, Helena Votřelová, admitted the company was “not pleased” with the latest ruling and indicated further action might be taken.

“Since the verdict is not final, following a thorough study of the ruling, we are going to evaluate our chances for a possible change and consider appealing to the Court of Justice of the European Union,” she said in a statement.

The company insisted the ruling, which does not relate to the word Budweiser, would not prevent it from using “Bud” in countries such as the Czech Republic, where the name has already been registered.

The Budweiser saga is one of the world’s best-known trademark disputes, according to Estelle Derclaye, a professor of intellectual property law at the UK’s University of Nottingham.

Wrangles of this kind can be drawn out, she suggested, because, unlike with patents, there is no time limit on the use of trademarks, so investment in legal costs, probably just a “drop in the ocean” to the companies, can prove worthwhile.

“In a competitive market, especially in a crisis, some companies, instead of settling, want to go to the finish, to have a final decision,” she told The Prague Post. “With a trademark, because it’s going to last for a very long time, it makes a lot more sense to carry on up to the last word of the judicial system.”

ABI described the Jan. 22 ruling as “majorly important” and said it now had “virtually worldwide protection” for Bud and Budweiser.

“We are extremely pleased to have confirmed our right to a Bud trademark registration valid throughout the entire European Union,” the company said in a statement.

It lost out this time, but Budějovický Budvar claims to have won 88 of the 124 legal cases between the two Budweiser producers concluded between 2000 and 2011. Most recently, earlier in January the south Bohemia company was given the go ahead by the Supreme Court in London to use the name Budweiser in the United Kingdom.

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