28 October 2022

The Spezi war: Paulaner wins at court

Germany | As the Augsburg brewer Riegele and the Munich brewer Paulaner could not settle their dispute over who owns the name to the popular lemonade mix Spezi, a Munich court declared on 11 October that Paulaner may also call its version Spezi and not pay royalties to Riegele.

The dispute goes back several decades. It was the privately-owned Riegele brewery, which had invented the orange lemonade and cola mix (think Fanta+Coke) in the 1950s and later had the name Spezi registered. Seeing its potential, Coke launched its own German version, called Mezzo Mix, in 1973.

Not seeing its full potential, Riegele signed a contract with Paulaner in 1974, which stipulated that Paulaner may also use the brand name – Spezi – but not quite the same recipe in all perpetuity for a lump sum of reportedly DM 10,000 (a few thousand euros in today’s money).

Outsmarted by Paulaner

Sales of Spezi have since taken off in a big way. Riegele would have been miffed and argued that the deal was struck with a corporate predecessor of Paulaner’s and was therefore null and void. It subsequently cancelled the contract and asked for EUR 10 million (USD 9.85 million) in compensation, plus a new licensing contract.

Paulaner, which is part-owned by Heineken, took Riegele to court in June. The judges decided that the original contract is still valid. Moreover, the contract was not a licencing deal in the strict sense, just an agreement which allowed for the mutual use of the brand name.

Riegele can appeal against the ruling.

Spezi costs more than beer

At 900,000 hl in annual sales, the lemonade must be a major profit spinner for Paulaner. A litre of Paulaner Spezi retails for EUR 2.06 (USD 2.03) and is more expensive than a litre of its Helles beer (EUR 1.70).

Because Spezi sales are still going up, Paulaner is rumoured to have shown an interest in acquiring the Oettinger brewery in Gotha, which Germany’s brewer of budget beers put up for sale in the summer. It is a brewery with a capacity of more than 1 million hl and is located some 400 km north of Munich, where Paulaner is headquartered.

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