The number of trademark registrations for beer brands in the UK has doubled in the past ten years as craft continues to boom.
Figures released today by London law firm RPC show that the number of trademark registrations has risen by 19% in the last year, from 1,666 in 2015 to 1,983 in 2016. In 2007, the number registered was just 968.
RPC says one of the key drivers behind this surge in new trademarked beers has been the move by supermarkets and larger drinks companies to capitalise on the 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.
The proliferation of new brands has also largely been driven by the increase in the number of independent breweries throughout the UK. These have been encouraged by the success of earlier start-ups such as Camden Town Brewery, which was acquired for £85 million by Anheuser-Busch.
In addition to the new entrants to the market, established craft breweries are also now expanding and releasing new product lines.
RPC commercial partner Jeremy Drew said: “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 trademarks rising, brand conflict disputes are also likely to increase.
As some of the world’s largest alcohol companies tap into the popularity of the craft segment, consumers are finding it increasingly difficult to distinguish between independent beers and mass-produced craft brands.
The UK’s Society of Independent Brewers recently published a survey of 1,000 beer drinkers in the UK, with 60% saying they cared about which company brewed their beer and almost 70% agreeing that it would be useful to see the brewer’s logo on every beer pump, clip, bottle or can.
In Australia, the craft sector has tried to distinguish itself from larger, multinational brewers, having elected not to admit members that are more than 20% owned by large companies or overseas interests.
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