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New trade mark registrations for beer brands rise by 12%

Published on 17 August 2015

Rise of supermarket own brand craft beers adds to sector's expansion

The number of trade marks registered in the UK relating to beer has risen by 12% over the past year, from 1,331 in 2013 to 1,485 in 2014 (see graph below), says City law firm RPC.

RPC says that the rise has, in part, been caused by supermarkets registering home brand craft beers* as they look to take a market share of the increasingly popular and high margin craft beer sales.

The increase in the number of independent breweries throughout the UK is also a contributing factor to the jump in the number of trade mark registrations for beer.

Recent research shows that the number of new breweries** has nearly trebled in five years, increasing from 101 in 2009-10 to 291 in 2013-14, as more and more people are setting up their own craft breweries.

Jeremy Drew, Head of Retail at RPC comments: “The craft beer industry in the UK has really taken off in the last few years with a surge in new independent breweries. Supermarkets are now looking to increase their sales from what is one of the fastest growing food and beverage categories.

“Within the supermarkets there has been a sharp growth in own brand craft beers, which are often white labelled products from independent brewers.

“As different retailers and brewers begin to bump up against each other more frequently the need to protect their intellectual property in this lucrative beverage market becomes more obvious.”

The craft beer market throws up its own IP challenges as consumers particularly favour the choice offered by a wide proliferation of brands and sub brands rather than preferring a small number of flagship products.

Increase in beer trade marks may lead to surge in trade mark disputes

RPC says that the jump in the number of beer trade marks being registered is likely to lead to an increase in trade mark disputes as retailers battle for competitive advantage in the market.

Henry Priestley, Senior Associate at RPC adds: “As the craft beer market continues to grow there is more chance of similar brands clashing. It’s a matter of sheer numbers, with the number of new breweries on the rise and new beer names making disputes likely.

“Businesses need to ensure that they are correctly protecting themselves from potential legal issues in the future, which can be both costly and disruptive to business.”

RPC says that the craft beer market in the US, which underwent its renaissance several years before the UK market, has already seen an increase in trade mark disputes- with these disputes fought out both through the courts and social media. If growth of the craft beer industry continues in the UK, then the UK market could well follow a similar path.

In a recent example, London based brewers, Camden Town Brewery, accused Norwich based brewers, Redwell Brewery, of passing off its product ‘Hells Lager’.

The brand had first been used by Camden Town Brewery, which sent a cease and desist letter to Redwell Brewery to stop it using the brand name ‘Hells Lager’ earlier this year. Camden Town Brewery also applied to register ‘Hells Lager’ as a trade mark.

Trademark registrations for beer rise by 12% in a year

Trademark registrations for beer rise by 12 percent