Century-old feud partially settled, for now, by Italian court
On Tuesday, Oct 8 Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar announced an Italian court has ruled in its favor in a court case against its rival, beer behemoth Anheuser-Busch InBev (AB InBev). The court has forbidden AB InBev from using the Budweiser trademark in Italy. Simultaneously, Budvar says the court will allow the company to return to the Italian market using its Budweiser Budvar lager. Founded in 1895 in the Czech city Ceske Budjovice — then called Budweis — Budvar is adamant that only beer made in this part of the Czech Republic may be called Budweiser.
According to Jiri Bocek, director of Budvar, the court ruled that AB InBev’s use of the Budweiser trademark was deceptive. Consequently, the trademark has been removed from Italy’s trademark register. Bocek is calling it “a great victory.” Satisfied with the verdict’s finality, he added, “Therefore our competitor must stop selling Budweiser beer in Italy.” The case may set a precedent for similar trademark cases as it ruled that traditional names and titles should receive the same protection as current official names and titles.
Needless to say, AB InBev is disappointed with the verdict and is not ready to give up. “We continue our efforts to secure our Budweiser trademark rights in Italy. To do so, we are considering our legal options,” spokeswoman for AB InBev Karen Couck penned in an email statement. “We will transition to the Bud brand in Italy to make sure that there is no disruption in the supply of our world famous beer to our loyal customers until we are able to secure our Budweiser rights.”
Budvar hopes the ruling will help increase its sales in Italy which dropped by almost 50 percent, due to a 2002 court case. In 2001, Italy was Budvar’s fifth largest market. However, Anheuser-Busch took legal action against Budvar and the use of the Budweiser name, with the verdict forcing Budvar to sell its beer under the name Czechvar, eventually evolving into Budejovicky Budvar.
The ability to exclusively use the Budweiser name should fulfill Budvar’s hopes of increased sales. However, the outcome of this case is much less favorable for AB InBev and its efforts to turn Budweiser into a global brand. Budweiser is growing in overseas markets, but only has a two percent share of the worldwide market. Additionally, the former “King of Beers” might now be the “Prince of Beers” or even the “Duke of Beers,” as consumption of Budweiser has fallen in the U.S. for 24 straight years. Budweiser now sits at number three in popularity behind Bud Light and Coors Light, respectively.