Budweiser Budvar, N.C. disagrees with the latest ruling of the High Court in Prague in the case of the “Hokejiáda” campaign, but will respect it, since the ruling is legitimate. The court case concerned the “Hokejiáda” advertising campaign carried out by Budweiser Budvar in February 2006. The Czech Olympic Committee (referred to as COC hereinafter) filed an extensive writ five years ago, which contained a total of seventeen clauses. In its legal action, COC demanded e.g. terminating the circulation of commercial spots with the goalkeeper M. Hnilička and the fans Bob and Dave as well as banning the use of the word “Hokejiáda“ or of a bunch of burning ice-hockey sticks for the promotion of the Budweiser Budvar brand. Other clauses of the accusation included also the claim for damages amounting to CZK 14,120,000 and a demand to make a complete ruling public in the media at the expense of Budweiser Budvar.
“In the end, the court allowed just three clauses – and only partially, from the original writ’s seventeen clauses,“ says Budweiser Budvar’s PR manager Petr Samec. The court particularly declined COC’s claim for damages amounting to over CZK 14,000,000. The brewery was ordered by the ruling to pay only a sum of CZK 2,250,000 as well as making an apology public in some media.
“We disagree with the court’s ruling but will respect it with regard to its statutory power. The ruling may be appealed against as an extraordinary legal remedy. At present we are considering whether there is a chance to succeed and whether we will appeal,“ adds Budweiser Budvar’s lawyer Marcela Wunschová. The High Court’s ruling in the case of “Hokejiáda“ campaign can subsequently represent a dangerous precedent, since owing to that COC is basically gaining a monopoly on using all words with the suffix of “–iáda” (neckiáda, autogramiáda, heydrichiáda) as well as on using any torches during commercial events.
The dispute was dealt with as early as in 2006 by three independent authorities - The Council for Radio and Television Broadcasting, the Czech Advertising Standards Council and Trade Licensing Department of the Regional Authority in České Budějovice. All these institutions decided that the “Hokejiáda” advertising campaign violated no laws or any other regulations. The case was also ruled in 2009 by the Regional Court in České Budějovice, which declined in its ruling most of COC’s requirements, thus partially giving Budweiser Budvar’s legal arguments the truth.
The dispute was accompanied by unusual media activity by COC, which e.g. claimed at the beginning of the dispute that the case will have international consequences and will elicit a response from Anheuser-Busch Brewery (A-B) or the International Olympic Committee (IOC). However, it was confirmed to Budweiser Budvar that A-B had never considered any measures in this respect and MOV eventually did not join the legal action either. As far as the requested out-of-court settlement is concerned, COC informed the media that Budweiser Budvar did arrogantly not accede to it. By no means was it arrogance on the part of Budweiser Budvar, since COC had initially required CZK 14 million in this out-of-court settlement (later lowered onto CZK 10 million), thus trying to enforce such a completely unfavourable compromise by force – the negotiations at the Ministry of Agriculture. COC’s harsh action against Budweiser Budvar’s campaign can be explained by pressure of one of the Czech Olympic Team’s sponsor, who demanded COC’s immediate and fierce action, achieving thus the termination of the advertising campaign, threatening to claim damages or other sanctions otherwise. “We can quite justifiably assume from the documents that are a part of the court file that the dispute did not principally concern the protection of Olympics symbols but predominantly a competitive struggle. We are disappointed by the fact that COC became an instrument of this struggle,” concludes Petr Samec.