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EU Court refers Bud decision back to Finland.

AP--The latest round of the global legal battle between Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar and U.S. beer giant Anheuser-Busch Ltd. remained unresolved Tuesday after the European Union's high court passed the trademark case back to judges in Finland.

The Finnish case is part of a tussle dating back almost a century and involving dozens of lawsuits around the world for rights to the Budweiser, Bud and Budvar beer labels.

Finland's supreme court sought advice from the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg after Anheuser-Busch brought an action in 1996 seeking to prevent the Czech brewer from calling its beers Budweiser, Bud, Budweiser Budvar and a series of other names.

While offering some pointers on the details of European trademark law, the Luxembourg court said it was up to the Finns to decide how the rules applied in the case. The EU judges took a similar decision last year, when the battle for Bud in Austria also came before them. Both sides hailed the EU decision, saying it cleared the way for them to win the battle in Finland.

Budvar claims it has rights in Finland dating back to the 1960s. Anheuser-Busch points out that a Finnish court ruled that those rights had lapsed, but Budvar says international law protects its earlier rights.

The two companies are involved in more than 40 lawsuits fighting over the use of the name, a battle that started in 1906 when Budvar first exported beer to the United States.

Budejovicky Budvar was founded in 1895 in Ceske Budejovice--called Budweis by the German-speaking people that populated the area at the time.

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

In the markets where the Czech brewer is barred from using the German version name of its premium lager, it has sought to sell it under its Czech name Budvar.

Since 2001, Budvar has exported to the United States under the name Czechvar.

Among recent legal rulings, the Czechs have claimed success in South Korea, Japan, Spain and Lithuania, while Anheuser-Busch has tasted victory in Nigerian and Hungarian courts.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 22, 2004
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