(CN) – Europe’s top court has placed the “Bud” ball back in Austria’s court in a long-running dispute between a Czech brewery and Budweiser maker Anheuser-Busch.
The European Court of Justice ruled that the Austrian court should decide whether to commission a consumer survey in the Czech Republic to determine how specific the word “Bud” is for geographical or product associations.
The ruling is another phase in Budejovický Budvar’s battle against St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch’s importation of beer, including “American Bud.”
Budvar claims that the importation violates a 1976 bilateral agreement, which encompassed product protections for Czech beer in the former socialist republic, including “Bud Super Strong.”
The Court of Justice’s ruling distinguished between two types of geographical origin distinctions: “simple and indirect” versus “designation of origin.”
A simple and indirect indication of origin provides no link to a specific quality, but merely derives from a specific region. This category of product may be governed by bilateral agreements, the Court of Justice court ruled.
If, however, a product falls into the more direct designation of origin category, because it retains special features inherent to the origin, it must be governed by extensive European Community regulations.
The Court of Justice ruled that Austrian courts must determine which type of origin the term “Bud” entails. The Austrian commercial court twice dismissed the action in the past, and indicated that it may not consider the Czech beer to have a narrow-enough relationship to the term “Bud.”
Beer with the “Budweiser” name has been brewed in the Czech town of Budejovice since 1795. This past March, a lower European court prevented Anheuser-Bush from claiming the name “Budweiser,” since the Budvar brewery had already trademarked the word.
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