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EU Court says yes to Anheuser-Busch’s Bud CTM

Businesses that want to oppose Community trade marks have been given more guidance from the CJEU’s General Court as to how it will apply the rules on the use of a sign “in the course of trade of more than mere local significance”

In the latest round of a long-running legal battle between rival brewers Anheuser-Busch and Budějovický Budvar,the Court ruled yesterday that the Czech company could not prevent the registration of the Community trade mark Bud for beer.

Budějovický Budvar had opposed Anheuser-Busch’s application to OHIM, citing the existence of the appellation of origin “bud”, as protected in France, Italy and Portugal under the Lisbon Agreement and in Austria under bilateral deals between Austria and the former Czechoslovak Socialist Republic.

OHIM dismissed Budějovický Budvar’s oppositions on the grounds that its evidence of the use of the appellation of origin “bud” in Austria, France, Italy and Portugal was insufficient.

OHIM’s decision was ultimately appealed to the Court of Justice, which held that a geographical indication protected in a member state can only prevent the registration of a CTM if it was actually used in a sufficiently significant manner in the course of trade in a substantial part of the territory of that state.

The General Court was asked to consider whether that criterion had been met in this case.

On January 22 the Court ruled that it had not.

In particular, it said that the Czech company had not shown OHIM evidence of the use of the term bud in the course of trade of more than mere local significance before the US company filed its CTM application in July 1996.

Budějovický Budvar produced invoices showing deliveries using the term bud to just three towns in France. As such, the Court said it had not satisfied the “more than mere local significance” test. Its sales of beer using the bud name were similarly low in Austria.

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