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A breakthrough decision of the Milan Court of Appeal is opening the door for the Budweiser Budvar brand back on the Italian market

The Italian Court of Appeal in Milan supported the Italian importers of the Budweiser Budvar brand in its ruling. The dispute originated in 2001 by the legal action brought by Anheuser-Busch Inbev (hereinafter referred to as ABI) and its Italian representative Birro Peroni Industriale S.P.A. against Budweiser Budvar for alleged unfair competition and breach of rights to their trademarks of “Budweiser“, “Bud“ and similar by importing beer of the “Budweiser Budvar” brand to Italy and selling it there.

The plaintiff required confiscating and destroying all such labelled goods as well as damages amounting to € 21 million and the reimbursement of the proceeding costs. In 2008, the Court of First Instance adjudged the plaintiff damages of nearly € 6 million plus attribution. The Court of Appeal has now ruled that the unfair competition did not take place therefore no entitlement to damages occurred and furthermore, it cancelled the trademark “Budweiser“ No. 589.805 owned by ABI in Italy due to its misleading. In addition to that, the plaintiffs have to reimburse all the proceedings costs of the Italian importers.

?esk? Bud?jovice, 23rd June 2011 – The Italian Court of Appeal in Milan supported the Italian importers of the Budweiser Budvar brand - Italsug Trade S.R.L. (hereinafter referred to as Italsug) and K. Kiem S.R.L. (hereinafter referred to as Kiem) in its ruling. The dispute originated in 2001 by the legal action brought by Anheuser-Busch Inbev (hereinafter referred to as ABI) and its Italian representative Birro Peroni Industriale S.P.A. (hereinafter referred to as Peroni) against Budweiser Budvar for alleged unfair competition and breach of rights to their trademarks of “Budweiser“, “Bud“ and similar by importing beer of the “Budweiser Budvar” brand to Italy and selling it there. Originally, the plaintiff required confiscating and destroying all such labelled goods as well as damages plus fine amounting to € 21 million and the reimbursement of the proceedings costs. The Court of Appeal has now ruled that the unfair competition did not take place therefore no entitlement to damages occurred and furthermore, it cancelled the trademark “Budweiser“ No. 589.805 owned by ABI in Italy due to its misleading. In addition to that, the plaintiff has to reimburse all the proceedings costs of the Italian importers. In 2008, the Court of First Instance adjudged the plaintiffs damages amounting to € 5,952,271.58 plus attribution.

The Court of Appeal has now practically dismissed all the requirements of ABI and Peroni. “As this now legitimate ruling indicates, the court arrived at a conclusion that neither unfair competition nor breach of rights regarding the ABI’s trademark took place on the part of the Italian importers of Budweiser Budvar N.C. and therefore no entitlement to damages occurred. Furthermore, the court complied with the proposal of Italsug and Kiem companies, cancelling the trademark No. 589.805 ‘Budweiser’ owned by ABI in Italy due to its misleading,“ says Budweiser Budvar’s legal department manager Helena Lejtnarov?. In addition to that, the plaintiffs have to reimburse all the proceeding costs of the Italian importers in both degrees of the proceedings in the amount of nearly € 150,000. This dispute in particular is a part of the Budweiser Budvar trademark ‘war’ which has been taking place in Italy since 1985. Following lengthy legal disputes, ABI accomplished invalidation of some Budweiser Budvar’s trademarks with the “Budweiser” element in Italy in 2001. Subsequently, ABI started to use its “Budweiser” trademark in Italy, trying to ban using other still valid “Budweiser Budvar” trademarks by the importers of Budweiser Budvar N.C. and attempting to threaten them with the claim for damages in a usurious amount.

“Budweiser Budvar N.C. was not a direct party in the dispute; however, it closely participated in preparing the argumentation and its supporting with evidence using archived documents. Despite the fact that it was the importers who were brought action against, the lawsuit was basically aimed at Budweiser Budvar N.C. and its “Budweiser Budvar“ trademark. The ruling will undoubtedly strengthen our business position in Italy,“ adds Budweiser Budvar’s PR manager Petr Samec. Italy belongs amongst Budweiser Budvar’s ten most important export territories. Last year the sales increased by 34% there. Italy has been a traditional trade outlet for the brewery; its pale lager was exported to Venice at the end of the 19th century. Budweiser Budvar had used the “Budweiser Budvar“ trademark in Italy until 2001, when the court’s interim measure issued in connection with this dispute prevented that.

This breakthrough ruling of the Milan Court of Appeal is going to also affect other proceeding lawsuits concerning the possibility of using the “Budweiser Budvar“ trademark by Budweiser Budvar N.C. in Italy. It cannot therefore be ruled out that Budweiser Budvar will be able to return to the Italian market with the trademark used here from the end of the 19th century. Without a shadow of doubt, Budweiser Budvar N.C. is going to use all the possibilities to be able to continue this tradition, unduly interrupted by ABI.

29 Jul. 2011

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