Via the IPKat's informative friend Stephanie Bodoni (Bloomberg) comes news of the European Court of Justice hearing today in Case C-343/07 Bavaria N.V. and Bavaria Italia Srl v Bayerischer Brauerbund e.V. In this reference for a preliminary ruling Bavaria NV, the Netherlands' second-biggest beer brewer, is challenging a group of German brewers that want it to stop using the name Bavaria on that beautiful golden beverage. At issue is the validity of EU rules (Regulation 2081/1992, now consolidated as Regulation 510/2006) that gave the Bavarian brewers rights in the terms "Bayerisches Bier", the German term for "Bavarian beer", and whether they can block Bavaria's trade marks. Says another of the IPKat's friends Massimo Sterpi (left), arguing for the Dutch brewers:
"The Bavaria trade marks were valid, are valid and were registered before the EU rights were given to the Bavarian brewers". Those rules "can't be used as a weapon to attack earlier trade marks".The Bavarian brewers' association disagrees. It received EU protection for the name "Bayerisches Bier" in 2001, then sued Bavaria NV in Germany, Spain and Italy, seeking to cancel the company's trade mark rights or to force it to stop using the Bavaria name on its brew. According to their spokesman Walter Koenig:
"In Italy, which is our number one export market, the distribution of Bavaria beer by the Dutch brewer confuses Italian consumers. We don't want to have others take this business away".Lawyers for various EU member states and the commission asked Bavaria why it didn't seek to challenge the German brewers' right in 2001, saying that now it is now too late to do so. But Sterpi replied that Bavaria -- who are supported by the Netherlands government -- believed then that the EU Regulation allowed its trade marks to co-exist with the Bavarian brewers' rights.
The IPKat wonders why it is that beer brands beginning with the letter "B" seem to be so troublesome. Just when it seems that the Budweiser saga is drawing to a close, the Bavarians spring into action. Merpel says, if Bavaria beer from the Netherlands is confusing, after a beer or two the terms "Dutch" and "Deutsch" can have much the same effect.
To read the questions that were referred to the ECJ, click here
Bavaria in Switzerland here; Bavaria in South Africa here; Bavaria in Colombia here