Anheuser-Busch & Czech Brewer Continue 100-Year Fight Over Budweiser Name

Talk about feuds — A small brewer in the Czech Republic, Budejovicky Budvar, has been fighting with Anheuser-Busch (now part of AB InBev) over a name that’s very familiar the world over for 106 years. Who knew? It’s an important battle for the small state-owned brewers because AB InBev is no longer so pleased with the last agreement and wants to butt into what had formerly been Budejovicky Budar’s market.

Way back in the days of yore — or 1906 — the two companies began suing each other over the right to tag their beers with the name Budweiser, reports the Associated Press.

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in the city of Ceske Budejovice, also known as Budweis then by German speakers in the area. Beer that’s been brewed there has been known as Budweiser for centuries.

Anheuser-Busch was founded in St. Louis in 1852, and dubbed their brew Budweiser because everyone knew the name. So it essentially took the familiar name, but did so officially 19 years before the Budvar brewery was founded.

The last settlement between the companies was set down in 1939 when Anheuser-Busch got exclusive rights to the name in the Americas north of Panama.

That isn’t enough anymore, as AB InBev now wants to expand into other markets. Doing so would effectively wipe out Budvar, says the company. It rejected a proposal by AB InBev for a global settlement, and the larger company then refused a counteroffer.

Budvar’s director says negotiations are now over.

“Any new deal proposed by Anheuser-Busch wouldn’t be working for us,” he told the AP.

This might sound like a David vs. Goliath situation, with AB InBev as the big, bad bully that makes 270 times more beer, but Budvar has been slugging away in the legal disputes. It’s won 88 of 124 fights between 2000 and 2011 and has exclusive rights to the Budweiser name in 68 countries, mostly in Europe.

That irks AB InBev, because it can’t get into some pretty appetizing markets like Germany with its own Budweiser brand. In the countries where neither company has exclusive rights to Budweiser, they’ll just change the name a little bit. Hence, why AB InBev sells Budweiser as Bud in some countries, and Budvar peddles lager as Czechvar in the U.S.

There are some countries where the two share the name, like in Britain. But that’s not good enough for AB InBev, which disputes a court decision there from 2000 that allows the two to co-exist in the country.

“Our concern is that coexistence on the U.K. market with the Budweiser brand will lead to consumer confusion,” said a spokeswoman for AB Inbev. “We want to make sure that when our customers order a Budweiser that they receive the clean, crisp taste of the global brand we have created.”

Century-old fight for Budweiser name hits new snag [Associated Press]