Protecting a drinks brand with registered designs

Wendy Crosby

Protecting a drinks brand with registered designs

While launching a new drinks brand comes with many challenges, it can also create significant opportunities. You may not realise that, alongside protecting your name and logo, the shape and surface decoration of your product and its packaging can be eligible for powerful intellectual property (IP) rights that prevent competitors from copying even the smallest detail without risking infringement. Here’s a short guide to how this works and what you can protect.

What is a registered design?

A relatively low-cost and effective form of IP protection, registered design rights can cover many different aspects of a product or its packaging (including shape and surface decoration), as well as individual elements and partial aspects of a brand’s identity.

Particularly in fast-moving consumer sectors, protecting aspects of your products with registered designs is critical to safeguard your unique style and prevent copycat products from popping up that try to piggy-back on your success.

A design registration can be issued within a few weeks of applying in the UK and a matter of days in Europe — so it’s a great way to quickly achieve IP protection.

I already have a trade mark — why would I need design protection?

Alongside being quicker and cheaper to obtain than a patent or trade mark, by strategically selecting different features of your product or packaging for design protection, it’s possible to build a defensive wall that makes it difficult for competitors to legally copy even the smallest detail.

When building an IP portfolio, design rights are commonly used in combination with other types of IP to establish strong levels of protection. Design rights can work in tandem with your trade mark rights to protect aspects of the appearance of your new brand and strengthen your brand identity.

Five ways to protect your drinks brand with registered designs

There are so many possibilities when it comes to design protection that we can’t possibly list them all. Here are five ways that you could think about your product and its packaging to help you see where registered design protection could be focused.

1. Shape

Bottle shapes can be protected — think about the silhouette, neck and outer surface of your bottle — are any of these aspects unique? Protecting these features can deter competitors from selling bottles or any other products of the same shape, even if they use a different trade mark to differentiate their products from yours.

2. Surface decoration

The surface decoration on your bottle or the packaging you supply with your product could be protected. Have you designed a pattern or other decorative element as part of your brand identity? Is colour important? By protecting these aspects, competitors will be deterred from using the same features on any other product — even if they fall into a different ‘class’ of goods.

3. Seasonal branding

The speed at which registered design rights can be secured enables the protection of even seasonal variations of products and packaging. If you add pumpkin graphics for Halloween or a snow effect for Christmas, your designs can be protected against copying — giving you an edge over rival products each season.

4. Individual elements

You can also focus design protection to individual elements of your bottle or packaging, such as a decorative label, embossed symbol or decorative cap. This can prevent competitors from applying the same label, symbol or cap — even when the shape of their product is very different to yours.

5. Partial aspects

You can even protect partial aspects of your bottle and packaging with designs.

Have you designed a decorative feature in the base of your bottle, or perhaps an eye-catching neck that makes your bottle stand out on a shelf — or have you designed part of your label to feature a decorative shape that represents the flavour of your drink?

This can deter competitors from attempting to copy even a small aspect of your bottle — such as only copying the decorative base or neck — while changing other features.

Talk to us

For tailored guidance relating to your brand, get in touch with me for a free initial consultation.

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