Sometimes you can make a decision which comes back to haunt you more than a century later. (Anheuser-Busch Inc. v. OHIM and Budejovicky Budvar NP)
Anheuser-Busch, brewers of America’s most overrated beer, was established in the United States in 1852. The company selected the trademark BUDWEISER, because it was already well-known in the homeland of its German founders. The first bottles of BUDWEISER were brewed in 1876. For some reason, perhaps related to over-sampling of the product, no one thought about the possible implications of adopting a trademark already in use by another company, albeit on a different continent.
Fast forward 120 years (for the mathematically challenged, that brings us to 1996). Anheuser-Busch is now trying to register the BUDWEISER trademark in the European Union – although why the Europeans, who brew really, really GOOD beer, would want to drink Budweiser is beyond us. Budvar, a Czech company, which had already registered the mark in France and Austria, objected. After an 8-year battle, the Anheuser-Busch application was rejected.
Sobered by this result, the folks at Anheuser-Busch soldiered on. Taking time that could better have been devoted to product improvement, they appealed. In March 2007, the appeals panel found that Budvar already had an international registration of the subject mark, specifying use in Germany and Austria. The rejection of the Anheuser-Busch application was affirmed.
In March 2008, Anheuser-Busch appealed to the European Court of First Instance – we are not making this up – arguing that Budvar had failed to satisfy some arcane procedural rule when conducting its previously successful defense. Not so, said the Europeans, who recently affirmed the rejection yet again.
THE LESSON TO BE LEARNED: When you select a trademark, think ahead – way, way ahead.