European Court of Justice Returns “Bud” Trademark Case to Lower Court

Apr 27 2011 - 12:46

The European Court of Justice, the highest court in the EU, ruled on March 29, 2011 that the long-running legal case over the rights to the “Bud” trademark between the US-based brewer Anheuser-Busch and its Czech competitor Budejovicky Budvar should be referred back to the lower-instance General Court.

The European Court of Justice found errors in the General Court’s judgment, and since the state of the proceedings does not allow the Court of Justice to pass the final ruling, it is sending the case back to the General Court for review.

The dispute between the two brewers started in the mid 1990s, when Anheuser-Busch filed applications to register the figurative mark featuring the word “Bud” in the EU. The Czech brewer opposed this application, maintaining that it had registered an appellation of origin “Bud” for beer. The Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market (OHIM) rejected Budvar’s complaint and granted Anheuser-Busch protection for the “Bud” trademark in the EU.

Budejovicky Budvar challenged this decision before the General Court, Europe’s second highest court, and in 2008 this court ruled in favor of the Czech brewer, arguing that the appellation of origin “Bud” was protected in several EU states under the 1975 Lisbon Agreement.

Anheuser-Busch then challenged this decision before the European Court of Justice, citing three errors in the General Court’s findings and in its interpretation of the European trademark law on the application of national rights:

  • Trademark registration can only be opposed when the mark is used in trade;
  • Trademark disputes have to occur on the territory where the trademark is used and protected;
  • Trademark use during the time period between filing for protection and obtaining protection should not count toward establishing proprietorship.

In a separate legal battle between these two companies, the European Court of Justice ruled in July 2010 that Anheuser-Busch cannot register Budweiser as an EU trademark because Budejovicky Budvar had staked a prior claim to the name. You can read more about this case here.

For more information, please contact Aleksandra Pavlovic at our Macedonia office.

Source: Reuters, Wall Street Journal

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