There were 1,983 registered trademarked beer brands in 2016, up from 1,666 in 2015, according to data compiled by law firm RPC from the Intellectual Property Office.
The latest figure for registrations is at its highest level since records began in 2007, when the number registered was just 968. This represents a 105% increase over that period.
RPC says one of the key drivers behind this surge in new trade marked beers has been the move by larger drinks companies and supermarkets to capitalise on the continued surge in popularity of craft beer and launches of their own ‘craft beer’ style products.
More independent brewers
Another factor in the proliferation of new brands has been the increase in the number of independent breweries throughout the UK.
Some 520 new breweries opened in the UK last year, according to recent research from UHY Hacker Young, while established craft beer breweries are also now expanding and releasing new, trademarked product lines.
Jeremy Drew, a commercial partner at RPC 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.
“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.”
Increase in brand conflicts
Drew adds that with the number of trade marks rising, copycat/brand conflict disputes are also likely to increase.
“The nature of the craft beer market presents certain Intellectual property 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.”
Last month, Scottish Brewery Tempest Brewing Co announced that it would be renaming its popular Bomber IPA beer following a trademark dispute with a larger English brewery.
Meanwhile in July, Scottish craft brewer and pub operator BrewDog lost a trademark battle with Elvis Presley’s estate over the right to use the rock legend’s name in their Elvis Juice beer.