They say that "heavy is the head that wears the crown" -- and that's true for no one more than Anheuser-Busch
When the King of Beers, and Motley Fool Inside Value selection, chose the name "Budweiser" for its flagship brew nearly 130 years ago, it seemed a bit of marketing genius. On the one hand, it sounded sort of Teutonic -- appealing to the tide of recent German immigrants who arrived in the U.S. following a series of revolutions that swept Europe in 1848. On the other hand, the name wasn't too hard for American tongues to pronounce. Why, as we've learned in recent years, even frogs can manage to voice "Bud-Wei-Ser" without too much difficulty.
But what looked like genius then has given the King a major headache in more recent years. Little did Anheuser-Busch founder Adolphus Busch suspect, when he chose the name for its beer, that his company would eventually come to control 50% of the beer market in the U.S. Little did he suspect that his company would become the target for lesser brewers the world over, looking to catch a little ride on his company's corporate coattails. And apparently, little did he suspect that there was a town in the Austro-Hungarian Empire (now the Czech Republic) bearing a name strikingly similar to the name that would ultimately ascend to the throne of King of Beers -- a town from whence a horde of rival brewers would emerge.
Back in March, we looked at the case of one such pretender to the throne, Czech brewer Budejovicky Budvar, which continues to fight Anheuser-Busch for the right to use the Budweiser trademark in Europe. Back then, the story was of an Anheuser-Busch victory, when the World Trade Organization nixed Budejovicky Budvar's argument that "Budweiser," as a German translation of the Czech city name "Budejovicky," was protected as a geographic indication that a brewer located somewhere other than in Budejovicky could not use to describe its products.
Today, the issue hits closer to home, as another Czech brewer, this time "Budejovicky Mestansky Pivovar" (BMP), which peddles a brew known as "Budweiser Bier" when retailed in Europe, begins to sell its brew right on Anheuser-Busch's front lawn -- St. Louis, Mo.
In contrast to the pugnacious Budejovicky Budvar, however, BMP says it isn't interested in picking any trademark fights with the King. All it wants is a bit of friendly competition, and to let the best beer win. To that end, when sold in the U.S., BMP is labeling its own brew "B.B. Burgerbrau."
Come to think of it, that may not be such a bad strategy for BMP. On the one hand, it should keep the Anheuser-Busch lawyers happy. On the other hand, I'll bet "Burgerbrau" will sell really well at picnics.
Fool contributor Rich Smith owns no shares in any company mentioned in this article.