This Bud’s for You… and You? Trademark Rights Battle over Budweiser Brand Name

budweiser protecting trademark rightsWith the amount of money spent on marketing, it’s a pretty good bet that nearly every adult in the United States is familiar with the Budweiser trademark for beer.  But it may be a surprise to learn that the beer brewed by Anheuser-Busch is not the only beer marketed under the trademark Budweiser.  A small brewer in the Czech Republic also has trademark rights to the name Budweiser and Anheuser-Busch is not happy about it.  (Click here to see MSN Money Article on this topic.)

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in the Czech city of Ceske Budejovice — called Budweis at the time by the German-speaking people who formed about 40 percent of the area’s population.  Beer has been brewed there since 1265 and has been known for centuries as Budweiser.  Meanwhile, the founders of Anheuser-Busch in St. Louis used the name for their product because it was so well-known. The brewer, founded in 1852, began producing Budweiser, America’s first national beer brand, in 1876 — 19 years before Budvar was founded.

The two companies have been embattled in legal disputes over the trademark rights to the name Budweiser for over 100 years.  Budvar holds trademark rights in Germany and other important European markets as well as 11 Asian countries, including Japan, Korea, China and Vietnam.  A 1939 agreement gives Anheuser-Busch the rights to use the name in all American territories north of Panama.  So, Anheuser-Busch controls the U.S. trademark rights for Budweiser.

While fighting over the name, Anheuser-Busch has grown to become the world’s largest beer manufacturer and is looking to expand into new markets.  These two companies have been in negotiations recently to determine a resolution to the trademark rights controversy.  As you may imagine, one would want to employ experienced trademark attorneys for such complex negotiations. Budvar holds the key to Anhueser’s expansion by controlling the rights to the brand name in strategic locations.  Much to Anhueser’s dismay however, those talks have broken down.

This situation emphasizes the importance of having a good trademark attorney to strengthen and protect your trademark rights.  Interestingly, one of the world’s largest beer manufacturers is prevented from developing its presence in several important countries because of trademark law.  Even with all their power and influence, they cannot overcome a valid trademark registration.  It will be interesting to see if Budvar is willing to sell off their rights to the name Budweiser or if they will continue to keep Anhueser-Busch at bay.  It’s certain that the trademark rights won’t come cheap.


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