Jared Brown, master distiller at Sipsmith, noses gin, June 2009. Photo credit: Sipsmith via Flickr
The number of trademarks registered for spirits and liqueurs in the UK leapt by 41% last year, according to new figures that reflect the soaring demand for artisanal products and consumers’ continued thirst for gin.
The scale of innovation by big brands and supermarkets in their scramble to produce unusual flavours and colours is also triggering more disputes involving “copycat” name claims, research published on Monday by the law firm RPC shows.
There were 2,210 trademarks registered in 2017 – up from 1,570 in 2016 – with the number having risen by 84% over the last five years, from 1,199 in 2013, the RPC report said. In addition, 39 artisanal gin distilleries were opened in the UK in 2017 alone.
Tanqueray’s new Flor de Sevilla brand of gin is blood-orange flavoured. Photo credit: Diageo
“Brands are rushing to register spirit trademarks as the industry goes through a period of rapid innovation,” said Ben Mark, legal director at RPC. “Many drinks companies are adopting a strategy of launching multiple sub-brands and varieties of their drinks in order to meet consumer and retailers’ demands for limited runs and niche drinks. It is a big departure from 15 years ago, when drinks companies would concentrate their marketing spend on just a few core brands and products.”
But rapid expansion in this sector has also led to a flurry of counter-claims, added the RPC partner Ciara Cullen. “More products inevitably means more trademarks. As a result, competition among spirits producers is getting increasingly intense. As more businesses seek to establish and protect a strong brand identity amid a proliferation of launches of similar products, the chances of branding clashes and copycat claims is high.”
Bacardi’s application to trademark its Angel’s Envy whisky was refused after the absinthe manufacturer La Fee, which also has a product named Envy, complained. The Port of Leith Distillery disputed the Birmingham-based Gleann Mór Spirits Company’s application to register Leith Gin, but its challenge failed.