Budweiser is everywhere at the moment, i have no doubt its because of that truly awful Super Bowl advert, Myself and Martin wrote very long piece in regards to that (here), so I’m not going to retread old ground here, One of the points i brought up there was the fact that we have two companies with a claim to Budweiser name and that somehow i know the reason for that, so i thought that because I’m desperately avoiding doing any actual work at the moment i would explain that process to you.
So last year Anheuser-busch was awarded the trademark for Bud here in europe (here), i know because i read about it and several other things that day, I also wrote about it because i have no real life, It was quite a controversial claim because despite what budweiser would have you believe they are not the only producers of beer in the world, They were not the first producers of beer and they just plum stole the recipe for Budweiser for the czech republic district of Budvar. A very similar beer to modern day Budweiser has been produced and consumed in this part of the world since 1265, Now for those of you who saw that good damn awful bud advert you no doubt aware that they have been brewing beer since 1879. i’m going to spell this out for lots of people, that means Budvar is several hundred years older than budweiser, yet somehow it ended up being made in America.
The answer to why this is down to a strange quirk in early american copyright laws, i want to get one thing straight, Anheuser-busch did steal the recipe from Budvar by modern day standards, They went to the area (then part of austria-Hungary), They tasted it and took it back to America, Now the people weren’t nessacaryily happy about this but had no real recourse, this is down to copyright or lack there of as the case may be. the distance between the two helps but this stopped being an issue sometime later, the world is a lot smaller than it used it be.
Following the American war of independence there was very little economic or cultural power in america, they naturally hid this lack of anything with an open door immigration policy and successive wars because nothing makes money quite like killing a bunch of people. one of the ways the government tried to speed up cultural growth was through very lax copyright laws, and by lax i off course mean non existent. the way the law was applied was justly, if your product was manufactured in america then it was entitled to full copyright protection, if it was not manufactured there then nothing, this meant that many american companies just plain copied their international forebears, this copying was so prolific that many pieces of china from this time are manufactured in America rather than china, this is something antique dealers are very aware of, if your one of those people that watches Antiques roadshow they references this on a couple of occasions, so Budweiser is a shameless rip off and its not until the 20th century with the advent of the internet that many of us knew, so we have two budweisers, original ok budweiser and the headache in a bottle budweiser that we have all grown to hate and its all thanks to a quirk of copyright.
i’m just going to let that sink in for a moment, the reason america is such a cultural powerhouse is down to them having no copyright, the country most obsessed with copyright only got into the place to bully others about copyright was by ignoring others, so why didn’t we fix it when america started recognising foreign brands, the answer to that is a another simple one, The Soviet Union, when the world was asked to choose between the soviets or the americans most of western europe choose the americans and as a result they favoured american brands over soviet ones. this insured that any claim by Budvar would go largely unnoticed within the European union, fast forward to today and budweisers huge advertising budget has insured that they are the only bud in many peoples eyes and thats a shame for many reason, Money really can grow a brand better than actual handwork i guess.