Three odd cases where companies were forced to share a brand
It's very important to own your brand. Who you are, what you do, and how you do it- one or all of those things must be unique, or you're replaceable. But that's not all, you also have to protect your brand from imitation! Fortunately for companies, the law has their backs in the form of trademarks. Trademarks allow businesses to solely own their identity and related identifying art, and thus build additional company value in the form of brand equity.
Sometimes however, due to unusual circumstances, two or more legally separate businesses will share a single brand identity. Below are three such cases. Here's the gist: There are two ALDIs, three Budweisers, and OpenOffice and LibreOffice are the same program.
1. ALDI and ALDI
In 1913, an entrepreneurial young lady named Anna Albrecht opened a small grocery store in the German city of Essen called 'Karl Albrecht Lebensmittel' (named after her husband, Karl, a coal miner). 'Essen', which translates directly to 'Food', would be the very thing which would make this family billions...
That guy in the middle looks nice.
Anna gave birth to two boys named Karl Jr. (1920) and Theo (1922). In their formative years, these two had a thematic through-line to their lives, frugality and groceries. Theo worked for his mother in their grocery store, and Karl Jr. worked at another low cost delicatessen owned by another family. Being of soldiering age, come WW2 they were both made into fighting Nazis. Karl Jr. suffered some un-google-able injury on the Eastern front leading to capture by the Russians, and Theo fought alongside the desert fox in Africa, and was eventually captured by Americans in Tunisia.
After returning home, having probably suffered ungodly treatment in POW camps- and certainly not feeling 'great', they were still laser focused on their purpose in life: discount groceries. They took over their mother's grocery store in 1946, and as a low cost food store in post war Germany, they were incredibly successful. They grew, they expanded, they franchised. At this time the store was still called 'Karl Albrecht Lebensmittel', in 1957 it would change to 'Albrecht', then in the mid 60's it would change to its final form, 'ALDI'- although the logo wouldn't reflect this until 1975.
In the year 1960, things got interesting for ALDI. Theo, probably influenced by his cool American captors in WW2, decided ALDI should sell cigarettes. Karl Jr. however, believed this would invite riff raff, like shoplifters, into their family establishment, and was adamantly against the idea. They couldn't reconcile this difference in opinion and split the company in two: ALDI Nord (Karl Jr.'s) and ALDI Süd (Theo's). At this point the companies became two separate legal and financial entities sharing the ALDI brand. As the names imply, they still cooperated to an extent by sticking to their own turf, but that's just a nice way of saying each ALDI was effectively banned from doing business in 50% of the world. It should be noted that this spat between the brothers is nothing more than hearsay, Theo and Karl Jr. were notoriously reclusive and their entire existences are shrouded in mystery- but that's the commonly accepted story.
Love wasn't lost between the two brothers however, as in 1971 Karl Jr. helped successfully negotiate the return of his cool brother Theo after a ransom based kidnapping. Theo used that ransom as a tax write off and soon after acquired Trader Joe's.
Theo (left) and Karl Jr. (right)
2. Budweiser and Budweiser and Budweiser
In 1265, the brewing of beer began in the Czech town of České Budějovice. The people of České Budějovice made such a good beer that not only was it endorsed by the king of Bohemia, but also had the town declared 'Imperial Brewery' of the Holy Roman Empire. 530 years later in 1795, a group of enterprising Germans arrived in České Budějovice ('Budweis' in German) and set up shop brewing the region's famous beer, and soon after began shipping it world wide- we'll call this Budweiser Bürgerbräu. They called this beer 'Budweiser', because in German they add the suffix 'er' to a word to mean 'of this type'. We do this in English to an extent as well (jumper, talker, smoker), but in German they also do it for location based descriptors. If for example you're from Vienna (which is Wien in German) you're a 'Wiener'.
The label off a bottle of Budweiser Bürgerbräu
In 1875 Budweiser Bürgerbräu began shipping to America, and just one year later Adolphus Busch arrived on Ellis Island with stars in his eyes and beer on his mind. He began brewing his own Budweiser beer (we'll call it Budweiser AB,) out of St. Louis Missouri, and with his father in law, Eberhard Anheuser, co-founded Anheuser-Busch. This is the Budweiser we're all familiar with today, assuming you're in America.
Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser logo
Finally, in 1895, various small breweries in České Budějovice teamed up to make their new and improved Budweiser, Budweiser Budvar. Budweiser Budvar is a major player in this game, and if you ask for a Budweiser in Europe, odds are this is what you're getting. Budweiser Bürgerbräu and Budweiser Budvar both almost went extinct during the Cold War since they were located in a communist ruled Czechoslovakia, but they're such damn good beers not even the Iron Curtain could kill them.
Budweiser Budvar's logo
Since 1907 there have been 124 separate trademark disputes between Budweiser AB and Budweiser Budvar, and Budweiser Bürgerbräu basically kept to itself. The results of these disputes are dividing the globe up defining who can use the name 'Budweiser' and where. If forbidden to use 'Budweiser' in a certain country, some odd alternate name is used negating nearly all brand equity (in Germany Budweiser AB goes by 'Anheuser-Busch B'). To further stake their claim on the Budweiser name, in 2014 Anheuser-Busch acquired Budweiser Bürgerbräu, the original Budweiser. Budweiser Bürgerbräu now goes by 'Samson'.
In 1985, German software company Star Division released a program called StarWriter, a low cost alternative to MS Office Suite. The software soon evolved into StarOffice, a full suite, and captured 25% of the German market. In 1998 Marco Börries, the founder of Star Division released the software for free to the world, just like in Tron! But then... The following year, Sun Microsystems acquired Star Division for nearly $50 million; allegedly because it cost less than licensing MS Office for their whole staff. Fortunately, in 2000 Sun Microsystems announced they would re-release the software for free to the public under the name 'OpenOffice.org', or 'OpenOffice' for short. Sun Microsystems had an in-house team working on developing this free software, which was pretty odd for a for-profit company. Regardless, they certainly developed goodwill with the open source community and OpenOffice became the go-to software for Linux users and a significant amount of Mac and PC users.
Good luck finding this logo with decent resolution!
The Original OpenOffice.org logo
In 2010 Sun Microsystems was acquired by Oracle, and the OpenOffice software again changed hands. Perhaps it's because the new parent company was an additional degree separated from the benevolent roots of this software, or maybe Oracle just thought it was foolish to devote resources to a free program, but they apparently weren't giving it the resources people thought it deserved, and this really upset people close to the project.
Dissent grew within the ranks and people jumped ship. The detractors formed an organization called 'The Document Foundation', and using the existing OpenOffice code, started LibreOffice in 2011. Months later, because most of the program's developers had left OpenOffice, Oracle had little choice but to offload the project, and they donated it to the Apache Software Foundation.
So here we are today, with OpenOffice and LibreOffice being the leading free office suite options on the market, yet they're so similar they constantly get confused for one another. What's odd about this case is that the design component of the brand is the only real difference, but they are essentially the exact same program, and they share the same history!