Protecting your assets essential in a competitive marketplace

As the craft beer industry becomes increasingly crowded, it is likely we will see a rise in disputes involving trading names as local producers and retailers seek to gain a competitive advantage in the market.

The recent dispute over the Yellow Belly ale is one case in point. The case centred around Yellow Belly, brewed by Derbyshire-based Buxton Brewery and Sweden’s Omnipollo, and the claim from rival Batemans Brewery that its name was too similar to its Yella Belly Gold brand.

Batemans claimed a breach of its trade mark on the basis of the similarity in names. As a result, production of Yellow Belly is set to end in the near future.

This again helps to highlight why it is so important to protect your intellectual property, and therefore your business, from challenges from competitors. A significant investment of time and often money is involved in developing your brand identity and logo, so is certainly worth protecting, and also clarifying whether you are free to use it at as early a stage as possible.

A registered trade mark is a valuable commercial asset and gives the owner an exclusive right to use that mark in relation to the goods or services listed in it. However, it is important to choose a trade mark that is acceptable to the Intellectual Property Office – a trade mark can be refused and can be challenged post-registration if it is a mark that has passed into the common language and has become a household name, is descriptive or is devoid of distinctive character.

It is vital to take legal advice if there is any doubt over the registration of your trade mark and whether you are free to carry out your activities without coming into conflict with the legal rights of others. Equally, be certain to seek advice if you feel your rights are being infringed by a competitor.

It is your business and your brand – make sure you know your rights and protect them where necessary.

Pippa Aitken is Head of IP at Sintons. Contact her on 0191 226 7842 or

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