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Court deals setback to Anheuser-Busch

/ Source: The Associated Press

Anheuser-Busch Ltd. cannot sell beer under the brand name Budweiser in Portugal, the European Court of Human Rights ruled Tuesday in the latest round of a global legal battle between the U.S. beer giant and Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar.

Anheuser-Busch was appealing a 2001 decision by Portugal's Supreme Court, which ruled that Budejovicky Budvar had the right to use the brand name under a 1986 treaty between the Czech Republic and Portugal, which protects registered designations of origin.

Anheuser-Busch argued the decision violated its rights to the "peaceful enjoyment" of the trademark and lodged a complaint with the Strasbourg court. It said the Portuguese ruling infringed Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights, which guarantees individuals and companies protection of property.

Anheuser-Busch first applied to register Budweiser as a trademark in 1981. After a protracted legal battle, during which Portuguese courts first granted the use of Budweiser to the American company then ruled in favor of the Czechs following their appeal, the case was sent to Strasbourg in June 2001.

"While we are disappointed with this ruling, the judgment has no effect on Anheuser-Busch's business in Portugal as our trademark for `Bud' remains valid and unchallenged," Stephen J. Burrows, CEO and president of Anheuser-Busch International Inc., said in a statement Tuesday.

"Anheuser-Busch has made significant investments since 1876 to develop our Budweiser and Bud brand names throughout the world, and we will aggressively protect our famous trademarks from any infringement. We disagree with the ruling and are considering an appeal to the Grand Chamber of Judges in light of the persuasive dissenting opinion issued by two of the court's judges."

The two companies have been battling over Budweiser and other trade names, such as Budvar, for a century. Currently, they are involved in some 40 lawsuits worldwide.

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in Ceske Budejovice _ called Budweis by the German-speaking people that populated the area at the time. Beer has been brewed there since 1265.

The founders of Anheuser-Busch used the name Budweiser for their product because it was well-known in their German homeland. The St. Louis brewery got its start in 1852. It began producing Budweiser, America's first national beer brand, in 1876.

Since 2001, Budvar has been exporting lager to the Unites States under the name Czechvar.