Paulaner brewery wins fizzy drink fight for Spezi branding

Paulaner brewery wins fizzy drink fight for Spezi branding

German brewery Paulaner has won a Munich court battle against competitor Riegele over whether the company can keep calling their cola-orange soft drink mix “Spezi”.

Munich court rules Paulaner win over Spezi name battle

In a court in Munich on Tuesday Paulaner challenged a claim by competitor Riegele that they could no longer use the name “Spezi” to sell their cola-orange mix fizzy drink. The two companies have been selling the beloved German drink under the same name since the 1960s. The Riegele brewery company, which is based in Bavaria, was demanding 10 million euros from Paulaner if they wanted to continue to use the name “Spezi” to refer to their drink. In response the Paulaner brewery filed a lawsuit against the demand, which they won.

For Riegele managing director Sebastian Priller-Riegele, the case has helped to cement an agreement on one thing; it was his family’s Augsburg-based company who invented the retro combination drink in the mid-1950s. Only in the 1960s did the Munich company Paulaner jump on the brown, fizzy cola-orange bandwagon and start to brew the rival product in a German city 66 kilometres away. The Munich brand is mostly known for producing beer.

In 1974 the two breweries signed a licence agreement allowing them to coexist as “Spezi” producers. This year, however, lawyers for the Riegele brand were arguing the case that legal successions at Paulaner meant this agreement was no longer valid and that a new licence agreement would not be drawn up.

Upon the court’s decision being made, Paulaner spokesperson Birgit Zacher told dpa, “We are pleased the court followed our reasoning. Both brands have their fans, each has its taste and now each has its place.” Priller-Riegele on the other hand, called the ruling “incomprehensible”, and suggested that the disagreement may return to the courtroom at a future date.

Spezi - the language lover’s soft drink of choice

Learners of German will be pleased to know that, like Nutella, Spezi falls into that category of words that nobody in Germany can decide on a definite article for. While “der” or “das Spezi” are the most common, an argument can also be made for “die Spezi”.

The name, which comes from Spezial-Mischung (special mixture), is an example of the Germans’ tendency to create shortenings ending with an “I”. Others include: “Bӧhmi”, the commonly used nickname for German comedian and chat show host Jan Bӧhmermann; “Kotti”, a local term for Kottbusser Tor station in the Kreuzberg neighbourhood of Berlin and “Gassi” a colloquial word for walking the dog.

For non-native German speakers and northern Germans alike, the case has been a language learning experience. Over the past days, Riegele’s 1960s slogan has been used frequently by the media, educating the masses on Bavarian slang. Back then, the company used the tagline, “A Spezi’s got to be there" (Ein Spezi muss dabei sein) which plays on the Bavarian word “Spezi”, meaning “friend”.

Unlike Paulaner, another Bavarian cola-orange mix drink has managed to stay out of the legal limelight by naming their version “Bazi”, a southern German word meaning sly or smart rascal.

Thumb image credit: Jan von nebenan /

Olivia Logan


Olivia Logan



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