- Associated Press - Sunday, December 23, 2012

CESKE BUDEJOVICE, Czech Republic — They’ve been arguing about a name for 106 years.

A small brewer in the Czech Republic and the world’s biggest beer maker have been suing each other over the right to put the word Budweiser on their bottles in what has become a David vs. Goliath corporate saga.

A deal, it seems, will have to wait a bit longer because settlement talks between state-owned Budejovicky Budvar and Anheuser-Busch, a U.S. company now part of AB InBev, have collapsed, according to Budvar’s director-general, Jiri Bocek.

The dispute is over exclusive rights — when only one of the companies is allowed to use the Budweiser name in any given country.

As a larger company, AB InBev is particularly keen to expand its exports and market its beers under the Budweiser brand. But Budvar says that giving up its exclusive rights to the name would threaten to wipe out its own brand from the market.

Budvar recently rejected a proposal for a global settlement by AB InBev, which in turn refused a counteroffer. Mr. Bocek said negotiations on these proposals, details of which he could not provide, were over.

“Any new deal proposed by Anheuser-Busch wouldn’t be working for us,” he told The Associated Press in a rare interview with a major foreign news organization.

AB InBev declined to comment on the details of the talks.

This Bud’s for who?

The brewers last agreed on a global settlement in 1939 in a pact that gave Anheuser-Busch sole rights to the name Budweiser in all American territories north of Panama.

But the peace did not last long, as the two companies expanded exports to new markets.

Though AB InBev is far larger than Budvar — it produces 270 times as much beer — the Czech company has been punching above its weight in the legal arena.

It won 88 of 124 disputes between 2000 and 2011 and holds exclusive rights in 68 countries, mostly in Europe, preventing AB Inbev from entering some key markets, such as Germany, with the Budweiser brand.

When the companies do not have exclusive rights to the Budweiser brand in a country, they resort to using slightly altered names. AB Inbev sells its Budweiser as Bud in many European countries. Budvar sells its lager as Czechvar in the U.S.

One of the issues, Mr. Bocek said, is that AB Inbev is not satisfied with sharing the brand name.

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