Leading intellectual property firm Wynne-Jones IP is calling on brewers across Wales to invest in intellectual property to protect their brands and beers from the inception of the process. This comes as brewery numbers continue to soar across the country, with nine opening this year alone, according to online site Rate Beer. This brings the total number of breweries across Wales to 102, according to the online craft beer resource, up from 88 in 2015, 75 in 2013, and a significant leap from 38 in 2008.
Last year Wales welcomed 17 more craft brewers, with numbers leaping by 35 per cent year on year, according to figures from UHY Hacker Young. Liam Peters, of intellectual property firm Wynne Jones IP, warned brewers to protect their brands and to take steps to minimise potential risks of infringement of third party intellectual property rights.
Mr Peters, whose expertise covers trade marks, copyright and design law said: “The Welsh brewing industry has enjoyed immense popularity over the past few years with numbers now increasing significantly to just over 100.
“While this is great news for the industry, it cannot be overstated how vital intellectual property is in ensuring your brand’s continuing success.
“This is particularly significant during the early stages of creation, when brewers are trying to create a brand following. If competitors own conflicting trade mark registrations, brewers may be forced to re brand resulting in a loss of everything that has been invested in whilst introducing that brand to the market. This can easily be avoided by consulting a Chartered Trade Mark Attorney during the brand selection process.
The warning comes after Scottish craft beer producer BrewDog recently found itself in a trade mark battle with the estate of late music icon Elvis Presley. The issue arose when BrewDog released its blood orange and grapefruit IPA named Elvis Juice, which it was claimed infringed on the legendary singer’s trade mark name.
In an ensuing trade mark dispute, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) ruled that BrewDog’s Elvis Juice trade mark conflicts with the trade mark of Elvis Presley Enterprises, and has been ordered to pay the manager of the singer’s estate, £1,500. Brewdog may now be left with no option but to rebrand its Elvis Juice IPA.
Despite this costly oversight, it has been revealed that many leading breweries may not have taken steps to ensure that they do not inadvertently infringe a third party’s trade mark.
Mr Peters added: “While this is obviously an extreme case of a Scottish brewery vs a legendary American icon’s estate, it is quite common for businesses to encroach upon the trade mark rights of another business. In the fast growing craft beer market this can be easily avoided if brewers consult with a Chartered Trade Mark Attorney who will be able to ascertain whether the chosen brand is free for use and will then take steps to secure the trade mark rights for the brewer.
IP tips for brewers:
“Breweries considering launching a new product can seek protection for everything from their brand names, labels, packaging and even the recipe, in some instances”, Mr Peters said.
Here are the top areas to consider when protecting creations in the craft beer market.
Brand Names and Logos
Branding is often the most recognisable aspect of craft beers and allows consumers to choose between competing products - as such it can make or break a creation.
Owing to the value of brand names and logos in the craft beer market, it is essential that brewers conduct trade mark searches in order to determine whether they are infringing third party rights. Trade mark protection should then be sought for the brand names and logos so as to protect the brewers’ investment in the branding.
Labels and Packaging
Coca Cola, Starbuck’s and Cadbury’s –all these industry-leading products are instantly recognisable across the food and drink industry thanks to their distinctive labels and packaging. The importance of recognisable labels and packaging is also prevalent in the craft beer market.
With competition rife and demand evolving – it’s vital for products to set themselves apart while protecting their branding and established image. However, this could also lead to a slew of copycat products being created intent on cashing in on the more established brand’s image.
As such, labels and packaging warrant protection against infringement in the form of copyright and design rights. Ensure you protect the product early in its creation to strengthen it against any potential copycats. Where certain elements are created by outside contractors ensure that the terms of your agreement specify that you are the owner of any intellectual property that arises during creation.
A company’s preservation of their trade secrets can be the basis of their success.
By keeping information about the manufacturing, industrial, or commercial aspects of your company under wraps, a niche market is created for that product, meaning competitors can’t tap into it without discovering the mystery.
Of course, there is one element of a company which can completely eradicate the secret - employees. Companies rely to a large degree on an element of trust between themselves and their staff to preserve trade secrets. However, if there is any doubt, remember to draw up a contract to lay down the rules as part of a confidentiality agreement.
Remember in order to protect a secret it must be a genuine secret and something which isn’t commonly known or easy to find out. It must also possess some sort of commercial value - not just something a company would rather keep hush-hush.
By creating a unique flavour for your beverage, it will stand out against competition and other brands. Since flavour is a quintessential part of any alcoholic drink, by researching current brands you can compare your own product to competitor products. Ultimately, researching when designing and creating a new product limits the likelihood of infringement.
Update: Brewdog owners have changed their names as result of the opposition: https://www.brewdog.com/lowdown/press-hub/blue-sued-shoes