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A bill against Heineken beer

March 18th, 2017

A conservative legal analyst finds it ridiculous and unconstitutional that the government intends to enact a law in retaliation against Heineken which has had a Hungarian Transylvanian beer banned by a Romanian court.

Csik (Ciuc in Romanian) is a historical region in Transylvania, overwhelmingly inhabited by Hungarians. Its name has been used by a local beer factory (run by Hungarians) as the brand name of their product. But Heineken had patented its own Ciuc beer brand years earlier and sued Csiki beer for misappropriation of its brand name. Heineken lost in the first and second instances and its claim was also rejected by the patent office (Office for Harmonization in the Internal Market – Trade Marks and Designs) of the European Union. Nevertheless, Csiki beer was ultimately banned by the Romanian appeal court at Marosvásárhely (Tirgu Mures in Romanian).  The beer has won several prizes in Hungary and several Hungarian organisations have called on the public to boycott Heineken. Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjén and János Lázár, the Minster in charge of the Prime Minister’s Office have tabled a bill aimed at banning autocratic symbols from store shelves. The bill is widely considered as being aimed against Heineken which has a red star as its logo.

In Magyar Nemzet, Beáta Bakó considers the fight of the Csiki beer company for its brand name as a very professional marketing offensive, as it is trying to depict its trade conflict as a matter of Hungarian national pride. She thinks, however, that the government should not be part of this effort. Legally speaking, she is convinced that the law will not pass the constitutionality test. The Criminal Code already bans autocratic symbols from public use, she argues, but the existing ban is confined to cases where those symbols are likely to stir disorder, which is obviously not the case with Heineken. She suspects that the two politicians who authored the bill have been motivated by political rather than commercial or legal considerations.


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