Budweiser Budvar is going to await the Austrian Court’s final ruling in the matter of the indication of place of origin
The European Court of Justice has issued a standpoint today regarding the so-called “preliminary questions” of the Austrian Court of Commerce (Handelsgericht Wien), concerning the character of the “BUD” geographical indication as well as the validity of the Czechoslovakia-Austria bilateral agreement that established its protection.
“The court case concerns solely the “BUD” indication and its use within the Austrian territory. It has no effect on any other trademarks owned by Budweiser Budvar in other countries. The European Court of Justice’s standpoint is now returning to the Austrian Court of Commerce, which will take it into consideration when making further decisions,” says Budweiser Budvar’s PR manager Petr Samec. The European Court of Justice ruled that the “BUD” indication cannot be protected as a qualified indication of origin by a bilateral agreement entered into by two member countries as the same matter is regulated sufficiently by the European Community Council’s valid regulation. However, at the same time the European Court of Justice called upon the Austrian Court to crosscheck again, whether the name “BUD” could be considered a general indication of the geographical origin of a product whose protection can be admissible based on the bilateral agreements. Such check should be carried out by the Austrian Court e.g. by means of a public opinion poll or questionnaire among Czech consumers.
The dispute started in 1999 when Budweiser Budvar filed a complaint against the Austrian importer of the “American BUD” beer in order to be protected from unfair competition as well as to protect the rights to the “BUD” indication of origin. The court ruled for the preliminary measures to be granted in favour of Budweiser Budvar, banning thus the distribution of the “American BUD” beer – a ban that has been effective until now. The subsequent court case saw both sides appeal several times. Eventually, the Austrian Court of Commerce required answering so-called “preliminary questions” from the European Court of Justice in the matter of the validity of the Czechoslovakia-Austria bilateral agreement as well as the mutual protection of the indications of origin regarding agricultural and industrial products.
Budweiser Budvar has had a highly positive outcome of its court cases. During 2000-2008, 115 court cases and administrative procedures were finalised, 82 out of which were won by Budweiser Budvar and 7 ending in a compromise.