Why Trademarks Matter in the Food and Beverage Industry

    Why Trademarks Matter in the Food and Beverage Industry

    Trademarks are forms of intellectual property which are important in every industry. The food and beverage (F&B) industry is no different. In fact, this industry is one in which trademarks are extremely entrenched. Some F&B trademarks date back not years or decades, but centuries. Therefore, an F&B business owner ought to understand how to use and protect this vital form of intellectual property.

    Unique Qualities of F&B Industry Trademarks

    Trademarks in the F&B industry can have similar qualities to those in other industries. Like all other trademarks, an F&B trademark can be a name, word, numeral, brand, letter, or even image. This intellectual property serves to distinguish specific F&B products from those of others.

    However, F&B trademarks often have unique qualities which do not necessarily apply to trademarks or other types of intellectual property in other industries. The shape of an F&B product’s packaging can sometimes be trademarked. In some special cases, even the shape of the edible item itself may receive trademark protection. If the colours of the F&B product’s packaging are deemed to be unique, these colours or combinations thereof may also benefit from intellectual property protection.

    These “non-traditional” trademarks such as product shape, colours, or colour combinations which apply to certain F&B products can be especially powerful forms of branding, providing owners with a significant commercial advantage. Despite this fact, it can sometimes be difficult to obtain intellectual property protection when registering a non-traditional F&B trademark. To avoid this problem, business owners should ensure that such non-traditional marks have acquired a secondary meaning as a trademark through their use prior to registration.

    F&B Trademark Registration

    According to the Nice Agreement, trademark registrations for F&B products and services cover five different trademark registration categories. Such products and services are categorized according to their primary ingredients or purpose. Most intellectual property agencies usually either require applicants to pay the registration fee on a per-class basis or require separate applications for products of each individual category.

    Before registering for an F&B trademark and receiving the associated intellectual property protection, an applicant must become familiar with the five F&B trademark categories. The Nice Agreement places these trademarks in Classes 29 to 33. They are as follows:

    • Class 29: foodstuffs of animal origin, vegetables, and other edible horticultural products
    • Class 30: foodstuffs of plant origin and products which enhance or
      alter the flavour of food
    • Class 31: unprocessed edible land and sea products
    • Class 32: non-alcoholic beverages
    • Class 33: alcoholic beverages

    The Importance of Trademarks in the F&B Industry

    The F&B industry is among the industries in which trademarks play extremely important roles. In the F&B industry, many products resemble one another in both form and function. This is where the importance of a powerful trademark becomes evident. An F&B trademark can serve as a guarantee to customers that the product is not counterfeit. Many legal issues have arisen as a result of the manufacture and sale of counterfeit F&B products. For this reason, a trademarked F&B product will appear to be more trustworthy and reputable in the eyes of customers.

    When F&B business owners exercise their intellectual property rights in this area, they can thus expect an associated increase in revenue. A well-chosen F&B trademark influences customers’ purchasing decisions by helping to build brand recognition. Increased brand recognition leads to brand loyalty among customers. This brand loyalty in
    turn leads to repeated purchases.

    Trademarks and F&B Product Packaging

    Among all matters related to intellectual property protection pertaining to trademarks for F&B products, one of the most noteworthy is the relationship between trademarks and product packaging. Appealing and impressive packaging can often be a decisive factor in determining a customer’s purchase of any F&B product. Thus, receiving and using intellectual property rights in this area is crucial.

    In most countries, F&B product packaging is subject to trademark laws. This is because most intellectual property legal systems require that they be registered as three-dimensional trademarks. Three-dimensional trademarks may be related to a product’s shape, container, or external packaging. To benefit from this form of intellectual property rights, the item to be protected must be distinguishable from more common product shapes or packaging.

    Trademark registration tends to be a particularly strong form of intellectual property protection for F&B product packaging. This is generally due to its renewability. The intellectual property authorities of most countries permit the indefinite renewal of this protection.

    This article brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.