A story like this always piques my interest, especially when it involves one of the most recognizable brands in America- Budweiser Beer.
Budweiser has been brewed by Anheuser-Busch or its successor organization, AB InBev, since 1876 and, being one of the first mass-produced beers to be distributed nationally, has been a market leader ever since. AB InBev has about 50% market share in the U.S. and controls just over 25% of the worldwide beer market, but what will be served if you order a Budweiser in Germany, the Czech Republic or a host of other countries? The answer may surprise you and has been the subject of one of the longest running trademark disputes in corporate history.
The battle over the ‘Budweiser’ name has been an international dispute since 1896. The case stems from the fact that Budweiser translates in German to “from Budweis”, a city in the Bohemian region of the Czech Republic with a brewing tradition dating to the 13th century. The city of Budweis is home to state-owned brewer Budejovicky Budvar. Budejovicky is the Czech translation of Budweiser and Budejovicky Budvar owns the Budweiser trademark in about 70 countries around the world, including most of Europe. AB InBev controls the Budweiser name in about 80 countries, including all of North America and most of the rest of the world. Both brewers can market the Budweiser name in the United Kingdom.
How can a trademark dispute be based on a name (like ‘Budweiser’) translating into ‘from a region’ (like ‘from Budweis’)? This stems from a European type of intellectual property protection known as protected geographical indicators (PGIs). A PGI is used for products such as Champagne, a term only used for sparkling wine produced in the Champagne region of France. Geographical indicators are also used in the U.S., think about Vidalia Onions or Idaho Potatoes, but the concept goes deeper in Europe to stymie low quality imitators.
So I raise a pint, and hope that you enjoy this fascinating story on an age-old international trademark dispute!
~ Brian Kasal- The Leadership Matrix
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