Jupiler changes into Belgium : hopefully AB Inbev will not wake up with a hangover


Given the announcement of AB Inbev to change the name of its well-known JUPILER-beer to BELGIUM, questions arise as to whether AB Inbev can freely use this name for its beer. The relationship between geographical indications and trademarks has always been complicated, since trademark registrations containing such indications can (and shall) be refused if they are misleading. This might explain why AB Inbev did not file a trademark application, which is confirmed by our searches in relevant trademark-databases.


That said, using the name BELGIUM as a trademark for beer brewed in Belgium is in principle permissible under Article 6ter of the Paris Convention, which forbids trademarks consisting of official emblems, flags or other official signs of countries or certain organizations, as the names of countries do not fall within the scope of this provision. 


However, such unregistered use as a trademark is not without a risk in countries where trademark protection is only granted after a formal application/registration, as competitors will be free to implement a similar or identical change, with AB Inbev only having unfair competition law available to defend its position towards third parties. It even seems that AB Inbev is already surrounded by one thirsty pirate at least, since moments after the public announcement by AB Inbev of its new name, this third party already filed a Benelux trademark application “BELGIUM” for beers. It however remains to be seen if this trademark application will be considered acceptable for protection by the BOIP.


In conclusion, we can only hope that AB Inbev has stocked a sufficient amount of painkillers to cope with the potential hangover of their marketing stunt.


by Jens DE MAERE, Trademark Attorney at GEVERS


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