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What’s in a name?

The King of Beers faces a hurdle thanks to a small, local Czech brewery

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Would a Bud by any other name taste as sweet? 

Well, if you live in certain parts of the Czech Republic, you won’t be able to get the Budweiser beer you’re used to. That’s because a quirk in linguistics has led to a situation that puts the King of Beers at a disadvantage.

It all comes down to location. The city of Ceske Budejovice in the Czech Republic was known by the German name Budweis when it was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. The hamlet lent its name to the most popular American beer, but Anheuser-Busch, the company that brews and distributes the beer, has found that its intellectual property doed not hold up in the Czech Republic. That’s thanks to a small, local beer known as Budejovicky Budvar, according to a piece in Time Magazine. As you may have guessed, Budejovicky is the Czech equivalent of “from Budweis” or “Budweiser.”

The small brewery has the rights to the name Budweiser in the Czech Republic, which means that Anheuser-Busch has to call its product “Bud” there. Budejovicky, on the other hand, must market its exported products in places like the U.S. and Canada under the name “Czechvar.”

This shines some light on the complexity of international law. Even a giant corporation like Anheuser-Busch must register its intellectual property in each and every country in which it expects to do business. It doesn’t matter that Budweiser outsells its Czech counterpart by many orders of magnitude. 

The dispute between the two companies has covered a lot of ground. Some countries might allow both brewers to use the same name, if it is determined that consumers can tell the difference. Other countries are concerned with similarities or differences between the beers, which is getting into another level of specificity.

This ongoing dispute is not likely to end anytime soon. So, if you are as interested as I am, I suggest you pop open a cold one of your choice and sit back and watch it play out in the courts.

Senior Editor

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Rich Steeves

Richard P. Steeves is Senior Editor of InsideCounsel magazine, where he covers the intellectual property and compliance beats. Rich earned a B.A. in English Literature...

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