Beer branding and protecting your trade mark through registration is a great place to start in the crowded craft beer sector. Rachael Ward of Ward Trade Marks would like to share three insider secrets as to how you can use Intellectual Property to make your beer brand a great success for a relatively small investment.

1. Got a new name? Check no-one else has got there first

The explosion in craft brewing means that beer branding has proliferated and you have plenty of competition. Of course, it’s important to make sure your labels and marketing literature are well designed and that they reflect your product. However, what’s more, important is to get the legal angle right. If you don’t, you could find yourself being sued for trade mark infringement if someone else has already registered the name you have chosen. If they are successful, they will be entitled to damages and costs. Not only that, your product and any literature showing the trade mark may have to be destroyed or handed over to the trade mark owner.

These consequences are far more wide-reaching than a design fail and, to prevent this, it is advisable to have a registered trade mark attorney conduct appropriate checks in good time before you launch your new beer brand. If the results show that there may be high-risk issues, back away and choose something else! There are better things to spend your resources on than fighting trade mark disputes.

2. Protect your beer branding so that it can’t be copied

Once you have chosen a name and your attorney has cleared the mark for use, make sure you file a trade mark application so that no one else can register it. In the UK, we have a ’first to file’ trade mark system; this means that the first business to file the application will be first in the queue to registration unless someone else eventually shows that they have a better right.

Delaying an application can be fatal. If you launch your product and someone else files for the trade mark as they like the look of it, then you are under pressure to try to get the trade mark back. The costs, delay and lack of guarantee of a favourable outcome can be solved by filing – and preferably securing registration of – your mark, in advance of shouting about your new product on social media. File the application first, or someone else may file it before you.

It’s true that using your trade mark will give you a certain level of rights to enforce protection against others. However, this method of enforcement is fraught with difficulties in evidencing your reputation and rights. It is nowhere near as cost-effective, or fast in reaching a conclusion, as showing that you have a registered trade mark. A registered company name or domain name will not give you the exclusive right that a trade mark registration does. In terms of priorities, looking after the trade mark is of greatest importance.

When considering whether it’s worth bothering with trade mark registration, just think – if a competitor did copy your name and register your trade mark, how much damage would this cause to your business? How much money and effort have you invested in growing your business and building loyal customers through your brand name, only to find yourself sharing this with a competitor? In the long run, it pays to protect what’s rightfully yours.

3. Keep a beady eye on your competitors!

Once you have your trade mark registration, you should defend your rights and enforce them against others, or else they will lose their value. Your trade mark is your property and leaving it unprotected is like buying a house and leaving the front door open, so that someone can come in and help themselves to your valuables.

Maintaining a well-crafted intellectual property enforcement programme is where a trade mark attorney is especially useful. Your attorney can advise you whether another party’s mark is similar and whether a particular battle is one which is worth taking on. It’s best to work out a brand protection strategy from the start with your attorney’s advice so that you can target your resources appropriately and not spend time unnecessarily threatening competitors, or dealing with other parties who are overestimating the extent of their rights. Most trade mark disputes can be worked out by quietly negotiating a compromise as opposed to trading blows on social media.

Your adviser should recommend a trade mark watching service, in which the relevant Trade Mark Registers are ’watched’ for potentially conflicting marks. Such services quickly bring marks to your attention and allow you to take fast action against those of relevance.

You should also monitor your competitors and look out for usage at trade shows and exhibitions. If another party is using your mark, don’t confront them yourself, but instead, take a photo of what they are doing and pass it on to your attorney. Keep your eyes open for potentially infringing trade marks in trade and industry blogs and magazines. If a conflict is found, have your trade mark attorney contact the party involved to request them to cease use immediately before too much damage is done to your brand. If consumers are confused, revenue will be disappearing elsewhere, quicker than you can say “cheers”.

These three points are the key ingredients for making your trade marks work for your business. Every brand has to start somewhere! Follow these steps and you’ll be well on the way to successfully protecting your trade mark rights.

About Craft Beer World

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Craft Beer World has been created to become a hub for important industry, product and agricultural news related to Britain’s brewing industry. It celebrates the growth of craft beer and will endeavour to offer unparalleled coverage of all the important trends impacting on the business.

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