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Bud: A human right?

Feb 10, 2005 - The never-ending battle over the rights to the name "Budweiser" took a new turn when the European Courts of Human Rights agreed to rule in the case.

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Anheuser-Busch is appealing a 2001 decision by Portugal's Supreme Court, which ruled that Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar has the right to use the Budweiser name under a 1986 treaty between the Czech Republic and Portugal. Anheuser on Jan. 11 asked the human rights tribunal to rule on the case, arguing the Portuguese court infringed its "peaceful enjoyment" of the trademark.

The Financial Times reported the case is believed to be the first at the court in which a company is arguing a trademark should be classed as a "possession" under human rights law.

"This complaint poses serious factual and legal questions" that require a thorough investigation, the court said.

Neil Jenkins, a trademark lawyer at Bird & Bird in London, said the approach is unusual enough to indicate Anheuser-Busch may not have a strong legal case. "Most of the time, if you have to dig around for human rights, you're getting kind of desperate," Jenkins said.

Anheuser-Busch and Budejovicky Budvar have battled in more than 50 countries over the Budweiser name. Budvar, based in a town called Ceske Budejovice in Czech and Budweis in German, says brewers have used the name for hundreds of years. St. Louis, Missouri-based Anheuser-Busch claims it has used the trademark since 1876, 19 years before Budvar was established.


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