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EU refers Budejovicky Budvar and Anheuser-Busch decision back to Austria.

AP--In the Austrian round of global legal battle between Czech brewery Budejovicky Budvar and U.S. beer giant Anheuser-Busch, this Bud is still up for grabs.

The European Union's highest court on Tuesday referred a decision on the use of the name "Bud" in Austria back to national courts, with some arguments for and against.

Budvar is trying to prevent the distribution of Anheuser-Busch's beer labeled "American Bud" in Austria and a Vienna court had asked the Luxembourg-based European Court of Justice for advice.

The fight is part of tussle dating back almost a century and involving dozens lawsuits around the world for exclusive use of the Budweiser and Bud beer labels.

Backing the Budvar argument, the court said a 1976 agreement between Austria and the former Czechoslovakia still could apply if Czechs continue to associated the word Bud with the city of Ceske Budejovice.

Giving hope to the brewer from St. Louis, the European court added, "on the other hand, if "Bud" does not either directly or indirectly designate any part of the territory of the Czech Republic, its absolute protection ... cannot be justified."

That leaves it up to the Vienna court to decide. "There is no winner in this case as yet," said an EU official, who asked not to be identified.

The two companies are involved in over 40 lawsuits fighting over the use of the name, a battle which 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. 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.

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 been also exporting lager to the Unites States under the name Czechvar.

The trademark battles have taken them from Lithuania to Taiwan and back to Luxembourg just this year.
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Publication:Modern Brewery Age
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Nov 24, 2003
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