Craft-Beer Brewers Open Taps as Trademarks Soar to Record

(Bloomberg) -- Craft beer lovers in the U.K. have never had so many choices on tap.

The number of trademarks registered for beer soared to a record 2,372 in 2017, an increase of 20 percent from the previous year, according to research from law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain LLP. The increase came in response to rising consumer demand for limited-edition and small-batch beers.

From well-packaged cans, to kegs with quirky names, to beer brewed with Earl Grey tea, big players in the beverage market are seeking to join the craft-beer scene. Anheuser-Busch InBev, which makes Budweiser, has been buying up local brands and Heineken acquired a minority stake in Beavertown Brewery, boosting its presence in craft beers. Scotland’s BrewDog lists more than 20 different titles on its website, including one called Elvis Juice.

“The craft beer market has grown to a scale where some of the intellectual property behind the brands is extremely valuable,” Ben Mark, legal director at RPC, said. “Protecting the value of those brands is becoming increasingly important.”

Craft-Beer Brewers Open Taps as Trademarks Soar to Record

The jump in interest follows a trend that’s well-established in the U.S., where Boston Beer saw shares rally by a third this year. And in Japan, where beer consumption is falling, the second largest brewer, Kirin Holdings Co., has focused on the fledgling craft-beer segment through investments in local brewers.

The increase in the number of trademarks has led to disputes in the sector, RPC said.

“The enormous range of products now available means that beer brands are likely to overlap,” said Ciara Cullen, a partner at the legal firm.

In one case, Paramount Pictures opposed the registration of a logo that it said was too similar to that used for its Godfather films. Another involved the Pernod Ricard Group successfully opposing a U.K. brewery’s trade mark application.

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