4 September 2017Trademarks

Beer trademarks flow amid craft beer revolution

The number of UK trademark registrations for beer brands has jumped by 19% in a year, according to research.

Law firm RPC found that the figure rose from 1,666 in 2015 to 1,983 in 2016, following a long-term trend of growth. In 2007, the number was just 968.

Although the research didn’t specify the biggest filers, RPC said one of the reasons behind the increase was the investment in craft beer products by supermarkets and larger drinks companies.

The firm noted, for example, that earlier this year discount supermarket chain Aldi added 16 new bottle brands to its craft beer range.

RPC added that the proliferation of new brands is also due to the rise of UK independent breweries.

The firm pointed to research by UHY Hacker Young, a network of chartered accountants, showing that 520 new breweries opened in 2016, up from 336 in the previous year.

Jeremy Drew, a commercial partner at RPC, said that with more players in the market, it’s becoming more important for companies to protect their IP.

“This is an innovative area of the market as well as a fast-growing one. Craft beer brands are often prized by consumers for their unique methods of brewing or the original ingredients used,” he said.

“However, much of this does not lend itself to protection by registration, so the brand name and look of the packaging take on much more significance in terms of protecting advantage at the point of sale.”

Commenting on the potential for IP disputes, Drew said that because consumers are interested in a range of “more differentiated products and brands”, rather than just one flagship brand, “this means a greater chance of similar brands clashing”.

Earlier this year, Scottish brewery BrewDog was forced to apologise after asking a pub to change its name, Lone Wolf. One of the co-founders admitted that the brewery’s lawyers had been “a bit trigger happy”.

WIPR has previously spoken to Jeremy Roe, primary counsel for AB InBev’s US craft and import division, The High End, about IP in the beer industry. He said that “one of the biggest issues” with regional craft brands is that they are traditionally not aggressive in enforcing their rights.

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More on this story

31 March 2017   Scottish brewery BrewDog has apologised for its actions in a trademark infringement clash with a pub in Birmingham, UK, saying the brewery “made a mistake” in how it had acted.
28 March 2018   A website dedicated to the Cleveland sport scene has taken on a US beer festival over the identical use of its name.
22 October 2018   The number of new trademarks registered for beer in the UK increased by 20% last year to reach a record high of 2,372 (up from 1,983 in 2016), according to a report released today by professional services firm RPC.