01 November 2018

Ripe for the taking: why brand protection is key in the food industry

The food and drink sector was arguably the first sector to recognise the importance of brand protection. Indeed, the very first trade mark application was for the Bass triangle logo back in 1876.

Since then, this competitive and innovative industry appears to have really grasped the importance of packaging, get-up and branding. For a number of food and beverage companies (particularly those that may not wish to publicly divulge their recipes and/or manufacturing processes), the brand is how they communicate with their customers and encourage consumer loyalty. In turn this has meant that, for many companies within this sector, trade marks have become some of, if not the most, valuable assets within the business. One only needs to look at brands such as Heinz, Coca Cola and Pepsi to understand the importance of a strong, recognised and trusted brand in a consumer focused industry.

In more recent times, consumers have demanded increased transparency from food and beverage companies and this has led to more companies utilising trade mark protection as a method of demonstrating brand authenticity. In fact, applications for food and beverage trade marks have increased by nearly 10% over the past couple of years, as they become widely recognised as the primary selling vehicle for products in this sector.

However, building a successful and recognised brand isn’t always easy. Many companies will often invest heavily in the initial brand creation, development and promotion before realising that legally they cannot use that branding without facing court action. This is why trade mark availability searches are so important at the outset.

Looking to the future, once a brand has become successful and desirable within the industry, many owners will find that unwanted attention shortly follows. This can take the form of copycats or brand-hijackers, both of which aim to unfairly compete with your business and take advantage of, or damage your reputation. Where trade mark protection is not in place, enforcement against this type of activity will be very difficult and often costly. It is therefore imperative for those in this sector to focus on protection of their brand at the same time as they are trying to build their reputation. Investment at the outset will safeguard the asset that has the potential to increase in value exponentially in the future.

For more information, visit our trade marks practice pages, or our specialist food & beverage sector page.