Germany: No trademark rights for ‘Oktoberfest’

The City of Munich has lost in a lawsuit concerning the Oktoberfest brand. The European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has dismissed the request of the Bavarian capital in the first instance to have the Oktoberfest brand protected. The city now wants to move to the next instance, reports the manager magazine.

"The German Patent Office's reasons for refusal were very extensive," says Clemens Baumgärtner, Spokesperson for Labor and Economy of the City of Munich, "which usually indicates that the matter is not so clear. The shorter the justification, the clearer the facts."

Since 2016, Munich has been trying to obtain the trademark rights for the Oktoberfest brand, which could be worth 100 million euros in royalties annually according to the magazine.

The Oktoberfest is by far the largest public festival in the world. It attracts every year more than 6 million visitors, that consume nearly 80,000 hectoliters of beer during a period of 16 days. All around the world there are unofficial offshoots of the Oktoberfest, with the Oktoberfest in Blumenau, Brazil and the Oktoberfest in Kitchener–Waterloo, Ontario, Canada being the biggest.

The brand Oktoberfestbier has already been protected for 20 years. The trademark rights belong to the Association of Munich Brewereries (Verein Münchner Brauereien) and may only be used by six traditional Munich breweries Augustiner, Hacker-Pschorr, Spaten, Löwenbräu, Paulaner and Staatliches Hofbräuhaus Munich as a collective mark. However, the exclusivity applies only to the European Union.

The copycats outside Europe are likely to feel strengthened by the current verdict. Many breweries outside Europe, especially in the United States sell beer which is called Oktoberfest. Very often this beer has no resemblance with the original, which is a Märzen style beer which is brewed for over 100 years according to strict rules.

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