A strong brand sells beer. When a punter walks into a pub, the labels on beer bottles or the pumps is a prompt to them to buy. It reinforces advertising and promotions and reminds them of previous experiences of the product. It is all about a quality promise, associated with the brand name and identity.

The thing is, there’s law surrounding branding and you must be sure you have complied with regulations to avoid problems which could devalue your brand equity.

Here are some pointers from the annals of real life:

  • Have you checked whether anyone else is already using a similar brand (the scores in the “Bud” cases are currently Czech Budweiser Budvar 89 and American Budweiser 124, with 8 draws)
  • Can emblems on the label be copied by a competitor? Cropton could not be prevented from using a particular version of the Yorkshire white rose on “Yorkshire Warrior” which was a bit different from the one that Samuel Smith registered for “Yorkshire Bitter”.
  • Is there an interested party, or perhaps a whole pressure group out to protect the integrity of the mark – as the makers of “Vodkat” and the makers of a not-an-advocaat sold as an advocaat found out. The Scotch Whisky Association’s website also makes sobering reading.
  • Is it worth applying for the mark to test the waters? Crabbie’s registered “Tickety Boo” and spotted an application for “Ticketybrew” which triggered an early disagreement.
  • If it is registered, is the mark used as registered, or at all – if not, the registration could vanish; although in Germany this has not helped a maker of “Duff” beer much in its attacks on an earlier maker of “Duff” beer who failed to stay true to its registration.
  • Is the name too close to a name in a related sector. The makers of “Red Bull” eventually settled their complaints against the brewers of “Redwell”.

As well as these points, thought might be given to:

  • Do you own the imagery used on the label, or might the designer/photographer allow others to use it, or ask you for more money if you want to use the design more widely
  • Registering the mark to show that you take pride in it, to try to warn off others, and to avoid having to prove reputation in it if you ever need to enforce the mark
  • Showing that you believe in the mark by putting “tm” or (if and only if it’s registered) “®” alongside it
  • Keeping a log of the design history of the mark, uses of it and any instances of confusion that have arisen
  • Using the mark “as a trade mark” rather than as a trading name or as a generic noun on your website and promotional materials
  • Choosing a mark that is capable of being protected – sorry, but you are never going to be the owner of the expression “nice beer”!

The long and short of it is that there are, from a legal perspective, smart and less smart things to do when it comes to your branding. The branding is crucial and if you need a hand with this side of things, then do let us know.

We can assist with the legal aspects of trademarks, copyright and patents, managing intellectual property rights and much more. To view our page on Branding and Marketing, please click here.

This article was written by Michael Servian. To contact him, call 01782 211 856 or email michael.servian@freeths.co.uk

The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the present time and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.