The Cambodian Supreme Court has awarded victory to a small Czech brewer in the latest round of the 110-year-old trademark battle between it and the world’s largest brewer of beer, US-based Anheuser-Busch, over the name “Budweiser,” Supreme Court Judge Chiv Kheng said Thursday.
The April 4 decision will allow Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar to sell its products, including those named Budvar and Budweiser, in Cambodia alongside the biggest-selling US beer, Budweiser.
“We made the decision based on an intellectual property assessment from the Ministry of Commerce,” Chiv Kheng said. “We have learned that both brands are not the same trademark.”
A lower Cambodian court ruled in 2000 in favor of Anheuser-Busch and ordered the cancellation of Budvar’s trademarks here. The Appeals Court ruled in favor of Budvar.
Cambodia is one of 40 countries in which the two companies are battling over trademarks, according to media reports.
Anheuser-Busch has the exclusive rights to sell Budweiser beer in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Denmark, Finland, Hungary, Italy, Spain, New Zealand and the US. Budvar has the exclusive right to the name in Portugal and Lithuania and is allowed to sell its brand alongside Anheuser-Busch Budweiser in Britain.
Stephen Burrows, Anheuser-Busch International’s president and chief executive, said the company was reviewing its legal options in light of the Cambodian ruling, which he called disappointing.
“The decision has no effect on Anheuser-Busch’s business in Cambodia or anywhere else,” Burrows said in a statement. “Our trademark for Budweiser remains valid and unchallenged in Cambodia, and we will continue to sell Budweiser there as we have for years.”
Anheuser-Busch Budweiser’s distributor in Cambodia, Anco Sutl Inc, distributes 30,000 cases of the beverage a year, marketing manager Maha Kosal said Thursday.
“In Cambodia it is a special brand: High-class and VIP drinkers,” he said.
But Maha Kosal said Thursday that he had not heard of the Supreme Court ruling.
“If the Commerce Ministry allowed [Czech Budweiser to be sold], we have no idea,” he said.
Sales manager Prum Somaly said Anco Sutl does not know if any of its competitors have applied to obtain a license to sell Budvar in Cambodia, but if one did, “our boss will take action, because we have a license from the Commerce Ministry first.”
Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in Ceske Budejovice—a Czech-town 120 km from Prague but called Budweis by the German-speaking people that populated the area at the time. Beer had been produced in the area of the Czech Republic since 1265.
Anheuser-Busch, based in the US city of St Louis, was founded by German immigrants to the US in 1852 and began producing Budweiser, the first US brand of beer, in 1876.
Since 2001, Czech Budvar has sold its beer under the name Czechvar in the US.
“We are very pleased that the Cambodian Supreme Court has ruled in the favor of Budejovicky Budvar in relation to our registered trademarks,” Budvar’s General Director Jan Boeck said, according to Market Watch.
Last month Cambodian Commerce Ministry Secretary of State Sok Siphana called his ministry’s handling of trademarks the most developed of its intellectual property compliance efforts. As a new member of the World Trade Organization, Cambodia is required to have a world class intellectual property system in place by Jan 1, 2007. Patent, copyright and geographic indicator regulations are still in need of upgrading according to the ministry.
(Additional reporting by The Associated Press)