BRUSSELS — Ask for a “Bud” in the European Union and the only one you'll get from now on is the one from brewing giant AB InBev.
That's following a ruling Tuesday by an EU high court rejecting a challenge from the Czech company Budejovicky Budvar.
AB InBev claimed victory in the latest round of the century-long fight between the two companies over the right to put the word Budweiser, one of beer's biggest brand names, on their bottles and kegs. The company, which owns the Anheuser-Busch beer, added that it now has the “right to a Bud trademark registration valid throughout the entire European Union.”
On Tuesday, the EU's General Court said that AB Inbev could use “Bud” because of the insignificant use of the term by Budvar in Austria and France.
After the Luxembourg-based high court dismissed Budvar's challenge, the Czech company said it would consider an appeal at the EU's highest court, which can only overturn the ruling on technical points of law. Budvar, founded in 1895, argues that only beer brewed in its part of the Czech Republic can be called Budweiser.
“The verdict is not final and we are considering appealing,” said Budvar spokesman Petr Samec.
In Leuven, at AB Inbev headquarters just east of Brussels, the mood was more elated. “We will now have virtually worldwide protection for the Bud or Budweiser brands,” the company said in a statement, adding the ruling allowed for a “significant expansion of our trademark rights.”
The brewers last agreed on a global settlement in 1939 in a pact that gave Anheuser-Busch sole rights to the name Budweiser in all American territories north of Panama. But trouble brewed as the two companies entered new markets.
Though AB InBev is far larger than Budvar — it produces 270 times more beer — the Czech company is a tough legal challenger. It has won 88 of 124 disputes between 2000 and 2011.