The Craft Beer UK Market Saw A 20% Increase In Trademark Registrations In 2017
from the storm-brewing dept
Regular readers here will know that we have been sounding the alarm on how trademarks are being handled in the enormously explosive craft beer industries. With the explosion of trademark applications in the industry, it’s no surprise that a cottage industry for legal intellectual property services specifically for beer brands has sprouted up. We’ve already begun to see the fallout from the a once-friendly and fraternal industry devolving into protectionism, but the only sane read on the data is that it’s going to get a lot worse in short order.
But, lest you think this is some uniquely American problem, a report out of the UK shows that things are going to be equally insane there, too. We have previously discussed UK intellectual property law firm RPC’s noting that trademark applications in the UK had doubled over the past decade, with a 20% uptick in applications in 2017 alone. A new report puts some reason to those numbers and it’s likely not what you’re imagining. Far from this being a result purely of the growth in new breweries entering the market, this has more to do with established breweries looking to expand trademark portfolios for everything they produce.
Some major breweries are following the craft beer model of having a larger range of trademark protected products, not just buying craft brands through mergers and acquisitions, but launching more products under their own marque. One example of this is Diageo-owned Guinness, which now produces a range of lagers and pale ales. RPC said the UK craft beer industry has followed the explosive growth of the sector in the US.
You can think of language like real estate, with trademarks being houses built on that real estate. What is happening here is that property owners are buying up 10, 20, 30 parcels of land and holding on to them, preventing newcomers from using that land themselves. It’s not so much a neighborhood of competing interests as it is a neighborhood of a few competitors busily locking everyone else out. This is legal, of course, but it is also purely anathema to the way the craft beer industry operated for decades.
The end result is predictable. Language is something of a finite resource. Yes, we can create new words for brands from the ether, but the vast majority of brands are some combination of existing words and phrases. With a limited number of those, moneyed interests gobbling up that finite resource for itself is going to serve to either keep new players from easily entering the market, or subjecting those new players to the risks of litigious and jealous trademark rightsholders. Again, this is the opposite of how the craft beer industry got to be so healthy in the first place.
And that outcome, of course, pushes everyone into the vicious cycle, as legal groups advocate protection from this ownership culture in the form of engaging in ownership culture.
The legal company also said the rise in the number of beer trademarks has inevitably led to a number of disputes in the sector and this has emphasised the need for businesses to protect their brands from the outset.
Or we could, you know, just go back to doing business the way it was done a mere ten years ago and all be more happy and successful. But, sure, let’s trademark all the things instead.