Intellectual Property (IP) in all its many and varied forms, is the foundation of successful business – but like all property it needs thoughtful maintenance from its creation right throughout its lifetime to develop, increase and protect its value. Depending on the type of product or service, it may have a number of complimentary aspects of IP, each requiring careful consideration as to how it should be protected managed and even disposed of to create and add value to the overall product/service.
A couple of recent news items illustrate this.
A trade secret can be an incredibly powerful property – unlike a patent, it has no finite lifespan but equally, there is no protection if somebody copies it or otherwise acquires it. Examples include the KFC secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, the formula for Coca-Cola, reportedly held in a secure vault in Atlanta
and known only to two people who are forbidden to travel together, and closer to home, it’s a similar story for Irn-Bru, where the “secret ingredient” is passed down as a family secret
. So why would the owner of such valuable IP willingly give it away?
is a craft brewery that was started in Fraserburgh by literally two men and a dog in 2007. By the end of 2015, they’ve grown the business to a turnover of £45million, turning a profit of £5.5million. 580 staff produced 41million bottles of beer….and this week they published all their beer recipes and brewing instructions
! So why might this be a smart move for Brewdog, when it would be commercial suicide for Coca-Cola? Well, Brewdog is currently crowdfunding investment from its enthusiastic followers. It thrives in its market by continually innovating (over 200 beers), rather than focussing narrowly on a single product range, and it will continue to do so all the time it brings out new brews. Giving away the recipes also fits well with Brewdog’s brand values, whereas Coca-Cola’s brand is inextricably intertwined with the mystique of being based on a secret formula. Finally, Brewdog have developed their brand to the point where it has a strong and loyal following, and complimentary IP protection in the form of the skills, knowledge and experience needed to turn the recipe into a product (as anyone who has ever bought a celebrity chef cookbook will be all too aware!) and a strong Trademark
Talking of Trademarks brings us to Kylie Minogue
. For those of us of a certain age, the diminuitive aussie singer and actress has been entertaining us since the mid 1980’s, along the way achieving worldwide record sales of over 80 million. She has also been incredibly successful at developing the Kylie brand to cover a range of products from perfumes to tour memorabilia including mineral water
. This branding is protected by a number of trademarks.
Global branding can be highly valuable, but it only retains its value if it can be successfully defended. This week her agents filed a notice of opposition
to a US trademark application for the trademark “Kylie” by Kylie Jenner, “a secondary reality television personality”
claiming approval will confuse audiences and dilute her brand. The case makes fascinating reading, and no doubt I’ll look at developments in future blogs.