US brewer Anheuser-Busch has won the sole right to market "Bud" beer in the European Union, a top EU court said Tuesday, in a long-running dispute with Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar.
The row dates back to the 1990s, when Anheuser-Busch applied to register its top-selling Budweiser brand as a trademark in the EU, prompting a challenge by the Czech brewer which said it had already registered the name.
In 2010, the European Court of Justice granted the Czech brewer the right to register "Budweiser" in full, as it had a prior claim to the name, but decided the following year to reopen the dispute over the shorter version of the name.
Both breweries use the name because it means "from Budweis" - the 19th-century German form of the Czech place name Budejovice. Anheuser-Busch was founded by German immigrants who brought their brewing techniques to the United States.
Tuesday's General Court ruling hinges on its decision that the Czech company had made "insufficient use" of its "Bud" trademark in Austria, France, Italy and Portugal.
The court found that Budejovicky Budvar had not produced any evidence showing that the term "Bud" had anything more than "mere local significance" in these markets prior to 1996 - thus dismissing the Czech brewer's claim.
Anheuser-Busch, owned by Belgian-Brazilian multinational InBev, said it was "extremely pleased" about the court ruling.
"This ruling is majorly important in that it will expand our already strong global protections for Bud and Budweiser," the company said in a statement, adding that the brands now had "virtually worldwide protection."
The General Court's decision can still be appealed before the European Court of Justice.
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