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Budweiser talks break down...again

Added: Friday, December 21st 2012

Attempts to settle the trademark dispute that has bedevilled the two Budweiser breweries for more than a century have broken down, according to Jiri Bocek, the chief executive of Budweiser Budvar, the Czech brewer.

The dispute involves the exclusive rights to the full brand name and trademark in any one country. Anheuser Busch, the American brewer of Budweiser – now part of AB InBev, the world’s biggest brewer – is keen to expand exports. But Bocek says giving up Budvar’s rights to the name would squeeze the Czech brewery out of world markets.

Budvar, which is still owned by the Czech government, has rejected proposals from AB for a global settlement and the American giant has turned down alternative proposals from Budvar.

“Any new proposals from Anheuser Busch wouldn’t work for us,” Jiri Bocek says. The brewers last agreed to a global settlement in 1939 in a deal that gave the American brewer sole rights to the full name in all American territories north of Panama. But that agreement quickly failed.

In spite of its relatively small size, Budweiser Budvar won 89 of 124 disputes between 2000 and 2011 and holds exclusive rights in 68 countries, mainly in Europe. Budvar’s success has prevented AB from entering some key markets, including Germany. Jiri Bocek comments: “AB’s goal is to gain exclusivity for their Budweiser all round the world.”

Coexistence exists in Great Britain but AB is not happy with that situation. Karen Couck for AB InBev says: “Our concern with coexistence in the UK market is that it will lead to consumer confusion. We want to make sure that when our customers order a Budweiser they receive the clean, crisp taste of the global brand we have created.”

Iain Loe, the former research manager for CAMRA, the Campaign for Real Ale, counters: “Budvar has a full-bodied taste whereas AB’s beer has little taste. Customers know which beer is which.”