UK beer trademarks up by 12% in a year
The number of beer-related trademarks being registered in the UK has jumped by 12% in the last year alone, evidence of the seemingly unstoppable rise of craft beer.
In 2013, the number of beer trademark requests being granted totalled 1,331. This rose to 1,485 in 2014, and it is expected to rise again at an even higher rate this year.
While it’s an encouraging sign for the future of the British beer industry, the jump in the number of trademarks being registered is likely to lead to an increase in legal disputes as brands battle for competitive advantage.
In a recent example, London-based brewer Camden Town accused Norwich’s Redwell Brewery of imitating its Hells Lager brand. It sent a cease-and-desist letter to the smaller brewer and has applied to have its Hells Lager name trademarked.
The research into beer-related trademarks, carried out by City law firm RPC, suggests that the rise in supermarket own-brand craft beers has been the biggest contributor to the increased registrations.
Furthermore, the fact that the number of breweries operating in the UK has trebled in the last five years means there is a wealth of new, small brands eager to protect their identities.
The number of breweries registered to pay duty has gone from 101 in the financial year 2009/10 to 291 in 2013/14.
Jeremy Drew, head of retail at RPC, said: “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.”
On the problem of legal disputes increasing, Henry Priestley, senior associate at RPC, said it was a matter of “sheer numbers” increasing the likelihood of brands clashing.
“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,” he said.