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Heineken may lose its red star logo over Hungary’s fight with ‘symbols of tyranny’

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

© Heinz-Peter Bader / Reuters

Brewer Heineken’s trademark red star may become a victim of the Hungarian government’s attempts to ban the use of “totalitarian symbols” related to years of Nazi occupation and the communist era.

On Monday, the country’s parliament began discussing a bill which, from next year, would make it a criminal offense to use symbols such as the swastika, the arrow cross, the hammer and sickle and the red star for commercial use.

Businesses using the symbols could be fined up to $7 million with employees receiving a jail term.

The government of Prime Minister Viktor Orban said it has a "moral obligation" to ban the commercial use of “symbols of tyranny.”

Experts say if the bill is passed, beer giant Heineken may be forced to change its logo, which features a five-pointed red star. The company has had a star logo on its beer for most of the years since it was first brewed in the second half of the 19th century, changing the color to red in the 1930s.

The star is thought to represent a brewers’ symbol for the various stages of the brewing process. The red star was also a major symbol of Soviet communism and used to appear on the crest of communist-era Hungary.

Red stars are also featured in the logos of US department store chain Macy’s and Italy’s San Pellegrino mineral water.

According to Reuters, Hungarian government spokesman Zoltan Kovacs said that based on the law, Heineken beer with its current logo could be banned.

Deputy Prime Minister Zsolt Semjen was quoted as saying that the red star in Heineken's logo was "obvious political content."

Lately, some post-Soviet states and members of the former Eastern Bloc have started a process of decommunization, which in some cases involve a ban on communist symbols.

Unlike Nazi symbols, communist symbols are not banned in the Czech Republic or in Romania. The Constitutional Tribunal in Poland ruled the symbols could be used.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in December announced a possible ban on all totalitarian symbols, including the red star.

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