Trademarks act to identify the source of a good or service to consumers, and therefore a trademark can cover any aspect of a brand that denotes a particular company in the mind of consumers. For example, as mentioned on the Azrights blog Cadbury secured the colour purple as a trademark, Coca Cola has trademarked its iconic glass bottle shape.
With the Internet making competition ever more fierce, and difficult for brands to stand out, securing an unusual trademark could help give your company that added distinctiveness which competitors could not emulate. However, securing an unusual mark is not straightforward.
The way Coca-Cola was able to get a monopoly over its bottle shape demonstrates what can be involved in securing an unusual trademark.
Coca-Cola & its distinctive bottle shape
The design of Coca-Cola’s instantly recognisable glass bottle is highly distinctive. Even feeling the contoured bottle shape in the dark can be enough for the identity of the brand to be instantly recognised. Coca-Cola’s bottle shape helps it to stand out from the crowd because no other drinks manufacturer is able to copy its bottle design.
However, this is something that the company has had to gradually achieve over a number of years.
In order to be granted a trademark for the shape, Coca-Cola first protected the bottle design with a registration which gave it a monopoly over the design. In the EU a design registration gives you a maximum of 25 years protection. Therefore, although a design registration is effective in the short-run, in order to ensure long term exclusivity Coca-Cola needed a trademark.
In order to get a trademark granted Coca Cola had to make sure the bottle design was associated in consumers’ minds with its name. So, the bottle needed to be identified with the brand whenever they saw the bottle. To achieve this, the company promoted the bottle heavily during the time it had design protection.
Once consumers did identify the bottle shape with Coca-Cola the company was able to secure a trademark over the bottle shape. This means that as long as Coca-Cola renews its trademark, and uses the bottle shape, no other company in the world can use such a bottle shape. That is very powerful IP indeed.
How you can secure an unusual trademark
So if your company wants to gain a monopoly over a particular brand identifier, make it can become synonymous with your brand. You’ll need to put appropriate intellectual property rights in place in order to stop competitors copying your branding in the meantime. So, if you want to associate a shape with your brand, make sure you register it soon enough, using a series of images to properly protect the design first. If you have an effective registration that can give you a monopoly over the shape for 25 years, then vigorously promote the design as something that is synonymous with your brand. For those on a smaller budget, social media may make it more affordable to achieve such a task without breaking the bank.
If you want to secure a trademark in a colour, or other unusual identifier, let us know by completing our enquiry form. In the meantime, if you want to learn more about the legal aspects of branding why not buy a copy of Legally Branded, a book that explains the relevant law in an accessible way?