Hungary threatens to ban Heineken’s red star as ‘communist’

Viktor Orbans government proposes tit-for-tat measure after Dutch beer maker won trademark case against similarly named brand favoured by Hungarians

The famous red star logo of Dutch beer Heineken could be banned in Hungary under a government proposal seeking to prohibit the commercial use of totalitarian symbols.

The draft law was introduced this week by the ruling Fidesz party of hardline rightwing prime minister Viktor Orban, ostensibly to outlaw merchandise featuring symbols like the Nazi swastika or the communist five-pointed red star.

But it is seen as a tit-for-tat reaction to Heineken winning a trademark dispute over a beer that is sold in Romania to ethnic Hungarians.

If the bill goes through it will be forbidden to use symbols of totalitarian regimes such as national socialism or communism, said Janos Lazar, Orbans chief of staff.

The government said it had a moral obligation to Hungarians who had suffered under Nazi and Bolshevik reigns of terror.

Anyone in breach of the proposed law could face a fine of 2bn forint (6.5m) and two years jail.

Heineken insisted its logo had no political meaning whatsoever and that it dated back to medieval European brewers.

We use the same brand symbols across the world, in every market, the firm said in a statement released this week.

We will closely monitor this local issue and hope this matter will be resolved soon.

Heinekens trademark red logo first appeared in the 1930s.

When the symbol became associated with communism after the second world war, the brewery swapped it for a white star before reverting back to the original after the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991.

In the Romanian dispute, a court ruled that the locally brewed Csiki beer, popular with ethnic Hungarians, was too similar to Heinekens Romanian-language Ciuc range and infringed trademark rights.

Budapest had slammed the decision as undignified, unjust and anti-Hungarian and supported calls to boycott Heineken products.

Lazar on Thursday again accused Heineken of abusing its power against a Hungarian firm.

Observers say the bill has little chance of becoming law given a number of big brands use red stars such as Italian mineral water San Pelligrino.

The Hungarian Olympic fencing champion Tamas Kovacs quipped he would return his medal of honour because it features a red star. I dont want to risk two years in prison, he wrote on Facebook.

With AFP

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