Anheuser-Busch has announced a summer advertising campaign that will include temporarily relabeling cans of its Budweiser beer with the name “America.”
In some countries, governments reserve the right to use the nation’s name trademark contexts. But not here. And while it’s fairly common for brand names to include terms like “American” and “U.S.,” there is apparently no federal trademark registration for “America” related to beer.
All that means Anheuser-Busch is likely in the clear with its new campaign. What it doesn't do is change the landscape of its ongoing “Budweiser” trademark disagreement with Budejovicky Budvar.
Anheuser-Busch is owned by Belgian-Brazilian conglomerate Anheuser-Busch InBev. Budejovicky Budvar or “Budweiser Budvar Brewer” is based in the Czech city where the “Budweiser” name originates.
At issue in the dispute is which company can claim exclusive rights in the name “Budweiser” for beer. St. Louis-based Anheuser-Busch started using the name in 1876 for its pilsner-type lager based on a style originating in the Czech town of Ceske Budejovice, known as “Budweis” in German.
However, the Budejovicky Budvar brewery—founded in 1895 in Budweis itself—also claims exclusive rights in the name. Anheuser-Busch and Czech breweries agreed in 1907 that the St. Louis company would have the North American rights to the name, but in the rest of the world, the two companies have frequently clashed.
As a result, Budweiser is known only as “Bud” in much of Europe, and the Czech beer is sold under the name “Czechvar” in North America and a few other places.
In theory, if Anheuser-Busch stopped using “Budweiser” long enough, Budejovicky Budvar could step in and claim that it had abandoned its U.S. rights to the name. That’s because trademark rights exist only so long as a trademark owner keeps using the mark in commerce.
It’s unlikely that Anheuser-Busch is going to completely stop using the name “Budweiser” during the next few months, even as it takes on “America.” And proving a trademark has been “abandoned” requires showing that its owner has not only stopped using the mark but doesn’t intend to start using it again.
Generally speaking, it takes years of non-use for abandonment to happen. Even after three years of non-use, a trademark owner can prove it intends to start using its mark again.
So whatever the “America” campaign does, there’s not much chance of it serving as an opening for a larger attack on Anheuser-Busch’s claim to exclusive rights in “Budweiser” in this part of the world.
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