LUXEMBOURG – A European court upheld on Tuesday Anheuser-Busch's right to use Budweiser and Bud brand names on merchandise including T-shirts and barbecue sauces, rejecting a challenge by Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar.
The Czech firm had sought to prevent Anheuser-Busch (BUD) from registering the brand names as trademarks for non-beer products in the 27-nation European Union, saying Budweiser comes from Budweis, the name its home town Ceske Budejovice went by for centuries.
"The court finds that the appellations of origin relied on by Budejovicky Budvar are protected ... only for beer and similar products," the Court of First Instance, the EU's second-highest court, said.
Budvar said the court ruling would have no impact on its business.
"Products in different categories are not Budejovicky Budvar's area of business," Budvar said.
"Today's decisions are not substantial from the point of view of Budejovicky Budvar's beer sales and do not threaten its current business activities in EU countries."
The St Louis, Missouri-based Anheuser-Busch, the largest U.S. brewer, sells beer under the Budweiser and Bud Light brands, competing with the Budweiser Budvar brand of the Czech brewer. The Czech firm also sells a strong lager under the Bud Super Strong brand.
The two have been in several legal disputes over the names.
Successive Czech governments have shunned the idea of privatizing the brewer on concerns it would be bought by Anheuser-Busch and lose the trademark, or its position in export markets in favor of the U.S. firm.
Budvar had sales of 2.5 billion crowns ($452.5 million) last year. Anheuser-Busch controls about half of the United States' beer market with its Bud Light the top-selling beer brand in the U.S. It sells around 30 percent of its beer volume in Europe.
In a separate case on alcohol brands on Tuesday, the CFI ruled in favor of Assembled Investments, an investment company, to register the trademark Waterford Stellenbosch for alcoholic drinks, in particular wine from South Africa.
The application had been turned down by the EU's trademark office because of the existence of Irish-based glassware company Waterford Wedgwood's "Waterford" label.
"Having regard to all of the foregoing, it must be held that articles of glassware and wine are not similar goods. Consequently, there can be no likelihood of confusion between the conflicting mark," the court said in its ruling.