Blow for Budvar in BUDWEISER battle


The Court of Appeal in Stockholm has issued a ruling in the long-running global battle between Czech brewer Budĕjovický Budvar NP (Budvar) and US rival Anheuser-Busch Inc (Anheuser) (Case T 2655-03, January 12 2006).

The two parties have been embroiled in various legal disputes in Sweden since 1979.

In 1999 Anheuser filed a writ of summons with the District Court of Stockholm against Budvar and its Swedish distributors Birramex AB and B&S Foods AB, alleging trademark infringement. Anheuser requested that the court prohibit Budvar, Birramex and B&S from using labels containing the words 'Budweiser Budvar' or other marks featuring the words 'Budweiser', 'Budweis', 'Budvar' or 'Budbräu'.

In 2003 the District Court of Stockholm partially found in favour of Anheuser, prohibiting Budvar and its distributors from using marks containing the words 'Budweiser' or 'Budweis'.

All parties appealed to the Court of Appeal.

The Court of Appeal upheld the lower court's decision, stating that the use by Budvar of the words 'Budweiser' or 'Budweis' on their own or in combination with other words, constituted an infringement since there was a likelihood of confusion with Anheuser's registered trademark BUDWEISER. However, Budvar's use of the marks BUDVAR or BUDBRÄU did not constitute an infringement as there was no such likelihood of confusion.

The Court of Appeal further held that, in spite of the claim by Budvar, BUDWEISER could not, with regard to the Swedish market, be seen as indicating geographical origin.

The order issued by the Court of Appeal stated, among other things, that: (i) Budvar was prohibited, by penalty of a Skr250,000 (approximately €27,000) fine, and Birramex and B&S were prohibited, by penalty of a Skr100,000 (approximately €10,600) fine, from offering, marketing, selling or in any other way assigning beer in Sweden using the mark BUDWEISER BUDVAR or any other mark containing the words 'Budweiser' or 'Budweis'; and (ii) Budvar, Birramex and B&S had to pay Anheuser Skr537,393 (approximately €57,000) for the use of the trademark and for the damage caused by the infringement.

Budvar, Birramex and B&S appealed to the Supreme Court on February 9 2006.

For a discussion of other cases in this long-running dispute, see BUDWEISER Case rejected by Human Rights Court, Czech brewer can use BUDWEISER but not BUD in Benelux, BUD war reaches ECJ for the second time, Anheuser-Busch loses trademark battle in South Korea, BUDĔJOVICKÝ BUDVAR registrations upheld by Board of Appeal, Anheuser-Busch precluded from registering BUD in Switzerland, Budvar chalks up another victory against Anheuser-Busch and Anheuser-Busch fails to revoke Budvar trademarks.

Simon Henderson, Jonas Gulliksson Advocates Ltd, Malmo

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