A mosque, a cathedral, and also a beer

Church officials in Córdoba run into trademark trouble with brewer of “Mezquita” ale

Two people drink Mezquita beer in front of the Córdoba monument.
Two people drink Mezquita beer in front of the Córdoba monument.j. m. vacas

Religious authorities in Córdoba have been fighting a very particular crusade for years. Their goal is to control everything related to the Andalusian city’s famous Mezquita, a Unesco Cultural Heritage Site, Spain’s most important Islamic building, a former Moorish mosque and a Catholic cathedral since 1239.

Little by little, the “Mezquita de Córdoba,” which was recognized under that name by Unesco in 1984, has slowly become the Cathedral of Córdoba in all Church-controlled publications.

At the same time, however, the Cabildo – the cathedral’s council of canons – has been busy registering the trademarks “Mezquita Catedral,” “Conjunto Monumental Mezquita Catedral de Córdoba,” “Conjunto Monumental Catedral, antigua Mezquita de Córdoba” and “Catedral, antigua Mezquita.”

More information
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In its copyrighting frenzy, it included the term “Mezquita Catedral” in 26 of the 45 classes included in the Nice Classification – the international system used to classify goods and services in order to register trademarks.

The problem came up when “Mezquita Catedral” was registered in Class 32, which deals with alcoholic beverages. Religious leaders failed to notice that there was already a beer named Mezquita on the market.

The owners of the brand, Cervezas Alhambra, a unit of the Mahou Group, appealed to the Patent Office on the grounds that consumers may get confused by the similarity of both brand names.

When their claim was rejected, the company turned to the courts, and now the Madrid regional High Court (TSJM) has ruled in Cervezas Alhambra’s favor.

Nobody knows whether selling beer was part of the Cabildo’s plans, but in any case, Catholic leaders in Córdoba will not be able to commercialize any alcoholic drinks under the name “Mezquita Catedral de Córdoba.”

Mahou, the owner of the Mezquita brand through its Cervezas Alhambra unit, fought the Catholic Church’s attempt to register a similar trademark.
Mahou, the owner of the Mezquita brand through its Cervezas Alhambra unit, fought the Catholic Church’s attempt to register a similar trademark.MAHOU SAN MIGUEL

The court also ordered cathedral officials to pay the legal fees of the case, which total €1,500.

The Cabildo not only registered the name for drinks-related products, but also for cosmetics, jewelry, knives, technological equipment, metal goods, furniture, clothing, toys, leather goods, food products, coffee, tea, cocoa, mineral water, wine, advertising, insurance, telecommunications, transportation, education, hospitality, and even medical and veterinary services.

Why? Cabildo spokesman José Juan Jiménez Güeto insists there is no “economic intention” behind the registration drive. But anyone wishing to use the word Mezquita de Córdoba on any of their products will first have to ask the Church for permission. 

And it is likely that permission will be denied. For years, the Church has been busy eliminating the word “mezquita” from all of its tourist advertising, describing the building exclusively as a Catholic cathedral – an attitude that has brought sustained criticism from many sectors of society who note that the historic monument should be run by a public agency in a more neutral manner.

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