As Anheuser-Busch makes an application to register the word ‘Bud’ as a community trade mark, once again, the two breweries go head to head in a battle to protect their respective brands.
Who: Bud-jovicky Budvar, narodni podnik v Anheuser-Busch Inc
Where: Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Marketing (OHIM) Board of Appeak
When: June 2006
The latest instalment in the string of worldwide disputes over the "Budweiser" beers produced by the Czech Budweiser Budvar and the US Anheuser-Busch breweries saw state-owned company, Budvar, leaving court disappointed last month. The Czech company, who produces upmarket larger "Budvar" appealed against the registration by Budweiser producer, Anheuser-Busch, of the word mark "Bud" as a Community Trade Mark for beers and alcoholic beverages in classes 32 and 33, but the application was rejected.
Budvar had been hoping to rely on Article 8(4) of the CTM Regulation, which provides that a Community trade mark application shall be refused if it is opposed by the owner of a "sign used in the course of trade of more than mere local significance" which pre-dates the application. Two appellation of origin registrations, covering France, Italy, Portugal, Austria and the Czech Republic, were invoked by Budvar as pre-existing rights. That argument was originally rejected by the Board of Appeal on the ground that Budvar had failed to prove that its "Bud" appellation had acquired more than local significance. Budvar appealed that decision, only to have the appeal rejected on the grounds that "Bud" was not an appellation of origin (AOC) but a trademark.
The Board of Appeal found it difficult to see how "Bud" could be an appellation of origin as; (1) "Bud" was not the name of a place in the Czech Republic, the name of the city in which it is brewed is "Ceske Budejovice", and there was no evidence that the name of the city had ever been abbreviated to "Bud"; (2) Beer drinkers in the countries concerned were not likely to think of "Bud" as an AOC; and (3) Budvar clearly used the sign as a trademark and not an AOC.
It was also considered that even if "Bud" were treated as an AOC in some countries, an opposition to a CTM registration under article 8(4) could not succeed on the basis of a right that was presented as an AOC, but was not, in reality, an AOC at all.
Why this matters
This may be a defeat on technical ground for Budvar, but it has certainly proved successful in keeping the brand in the public eye. Win or lose – the brewery still gets equal footing in the press with a rival whose advertising budget it isn't capable of matching.