Czech brewery claims win over Anheuser-Busch

Friday, May 9, 2003

PRAGUE, Czech Republic -- Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar claimed victory over its rival, St. Louis-based beer giant Anheuser-Busch, in two European countries in the latest rounds of their worldwide trademark battle.

The national patent office in Portugal accepted Budejovicky Budvar's objections to Anheuser-Busch patent applications for the "Budweiser" and "Budweiser King of Beers" trademarks, the Czech company said in a statement released Wednesday.

The statement said the office's ruling respected a previous decision by the Supreme Court which acknowledged the historical rights of Budejovicky Budvar to the 'Budweiser Budvar' trademark, based on the place of origin of the same name Budejovice, or Budweis in German and rejected the application to register the Anheuser-Busch trademarks.

Andrew Day, vice president and managing director of Anheuser-Busch Europe Ltd., said in a statement that the decision had no effect on his company's business.

"We are appealing and are confident that we will ultimately prevail on appeal," he said.

In a similar move, a Lithuanian court rejected Anheuser-Busch's action against Budvar in that country, after the U.S. brewery had applied for a reversal of the local patent authority's decision regarding the refusal to register the Budweiser trademarks of Anheuser-Busch.

The Lithuanian court justified its decision by saying that Budvar had previously registered the same and similar trademarks and ruled as irrelevant the assertion that the Budweiser mark is used widely by Anheuser-Busch in other countries, the statement said.

"We are pleased that European courts have confirmed our historical right to the Budweiser trademark, which is tied to the originating place of our beer, Ceske Budejovice -- Budweis," Jiri Bocek, Budvar's director, said.

"We are also pleased that many courts recognize our beer, Budweiser Budvar, as the continuation of more than a 700-year tradition of the original beer from Ceske Budejovice," he said.

Anheuser-Busch holds the rights to the "Bud" trademark in both Portugal and Lithuania, Day said, adding that the company remained "in a good position commercially" in Lithuania despite the court decision.

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in Ceske Budejovice -- called Budweis by the German-speaking people that populated the area at the time. Beer has been brewed there since 1265.

The founders of American brewer Anheuser-Busch used the name Budweiser for their product because it was well-known in their German homeland. They founded their brewery in 1876.

Disputes over the trademark date back to 1906, when the Czech brewery began exporting its product to the United States. The two competitors are currently embroiled in more than 40 lawsuits.

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