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Beer trade marks rise by 19% in a year as more capitalise on the craft beer revolution

Published on 04 September 2017

Trade mark registrations for beer brands rise by 104% to highest level since 2007

The number of new trade mark registrations in the UK for beer brands has risen by 19% in the last year, from 1,666 in 2015 to 1,983 in 2016*, says City headquartered law firm RPC.

RPC says that the number of trade mark registrations for beer brands has reached the highest level since 2007 when the number registered was just 968, marking a 104% increase. (see graph below).

RPC says one of the key drivers behind this surge in new trade marked beers has been the move by supermarkets and larger drinks companies to capitalise on the continued surge in popularity of craft beer and introduce their own ‘craft beer’ style products.

Supermarkets are both throwing open their shelves to new small scale beer brands and creating their own craft beer which is often white labelled products from independent breweries.  For example, in May 2017 Aldi announced that it was adding 16 new bottles to its craft beer range, whilst Marks and Spencer works with craft beer retailer Real Ale to source a range of beer from smaller brewers nationally for its stores.

Supermarkets are using the expanded range of craft beer in their stores as a key competitive selling point.

RPC adds that the proliferation of new brands has also largely been driven by the increase in the number of independent breweries throughout the UK. These new breweries have been encouraged by the success of earlier start-ups such as Camden Town Brewery, which was recently acquired for £85m by global drinks company Ab InBev.

Recent research revealed that 520 new breweries opened in the UK last year, jumping by 33% from the previous year where the number of new breweries opening was 336**.

In addition to the new entrants to the market, established craft beer breweries are also now expanding and releasing new product lines.

Jeremy Drew, a Commercial Partner at RPC comments: “The craft beer sector has been booming - and now there are not only a number of new entrants,  but also more established breweries, larger drinks corporations and supermarkets all wanting to establish a share in the market.

“With more players in the market it’s becoming more important that companies protect their intellectual property.

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

RPC says that with the number of trade marks rising, copycat/brand conflict disputes are also likely to increase.

Jeremy  adds: “The nature of the craft beer market presents certain IP challenges. Rather than one flagship brand, consumers seem to be interested in a range of more differentiated products and brands - but this means a greater chance of similar brands clashing.

“Legal disputes can be costly and disruptive so it is sensible for businesses to ensure they are protecting themselves from the outset but also being sensible about what fights they choose to take on.”

Recent high profile trade mark disputes within the sector include:

  • Brewdog, the Scottish craft beer company issued a legal warning against a pub in Birmingham to prevent the pub being named ‘Lone Wolf’, the same name as one of the company’s products - Brewdog has since apparently rescinded the warning.

  • Scottish Brewery, Tempest Brewing Co, recently announced that it would be renaming its popular Bomber IPA beer following a trademark dispute with a larger English brewery

  • Brewdog has also been in dispute with Elvis Presley’s Estate after filing a trade mark for its ‘Elvis Juice’ and subsequent ‘Brewdog Elvis Juice’ products.

Beer trade marks reach highest level since 2007- increasing by 104%

 Beer trade marks reach highest level since 2007- increasing by 104%

*Source: Intellectual Property Office, latest data available

**Source: UHY Hacker Young