USA: AB InBev wins first round in ‘Beer Keg Battle’ against Heineken

AB InBev has dropped a patent-infringement file at the U.S. International Trade Commission (USITC) against rival Heineken but has asked instead to reopen a civil lawsuit in New York in order to get a compensation payment. The world’s largest brewer said in a filing that Heineken itself told a trade judge on April 16 that neither the BrewLock nor the Blade systems are currently sold in the U.S.

“We are pleased to have achieved our desired outcome in this proceeding - namely Heineken’s withdrawal of its products from the market,” Pablo Jiménez Zorrilla, Global Vice President Reputation & Communications at AB InBev said in a statement. “Given we have achieved our desired result, we see no further need for the requested relief from the USITC.” Since the agency can’t award damages AB InBev asked now instead the court in New York to reopen the civil lawsuit, which was put on hold until the verdict of the USITC.

The ‘Beer Keg Battle’ started exactly one year ago after the two European brewers could not agree on licensing each others’ patents in the United States. In May 2018, AB InBev filed a lawsuit against the Dutch brewer for infringing four patents of its unique and patented bag-in-a-container technology which uses normal air instead of CO2 to compress a bladder inside a plastic keg to push the beer up (, 5.5.2018). AB InBev uses the technology in the Nova system for its premium brand Stella Artois.

Heineken fired back in August 2018 and filed in turn a complaint - again with the USITC - against AB InBev that seeks to block imports of products that use Heineken’s patented dispensing line.

Last month the first trial concerning AB InBev’s container system was opened and the dispute over Heineken’s dispensing line will follow at a later stage.

The new draft technology is seen by both brewing giants as a key factor for the future success in bars and restaurants and partly also in the home market. The old dispensing technology uses heavy steel kegs in sizes of 30 or 50 liters. However, bars and restaurants ask for smaller and lighter units because consumers are seeking in the last years increasingly a bigger variety in beer styles. This implies the need for smaller and partly also slimmer kegs which can be easily tapped and cleaned and emptied in a shorter period of time.

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