Creativity and innovation are at the heart of IP and stories of individuals and friends creating successful brands with little capital and simply believing in their ideas are inspiring. The food and beverage industries in particular attract this kind of entrepreneurship.
The current edition of the BBC's weekly The Boss series, which profiles different business leaders from around the world, focuses on the soft drinks company Fritz-Kola.
Of particular interest in the context of IP is how the founders of Fritz-Kola devised their logo. They decided to use a photo of their faces, which they adapted and used in black and white, because it was the cheapest option available to them. Having an image designed for them would have created extra expense. Had they taken that route they may also have fallen into a common trap of not owning the logo that had been created. When such logos are created by a third party (for instance a brand or other creative agency, or consultants who are not employees) the creator is likely to be the owner. Whilst you will probably have an implied licence to use the logo you have commissioned, there are many activities that might be restricted if you do not actually own the logo. For example adapting the logo without the permission of the owner is an act restricted by law. When it comes to enforcing these rights, it is also important that you own the rights (or at least have permission to enforce them). Therefore, if a third party creates a logo for you it is important that you take an assignment of the copyright in that logo, which must be explicit and in writing.
The founders of Fritz-Kola were also aware of the importance of IP protection as they registered their brand early on. Brands, or trade marks, are probably the most valuable tool in your brand protection arsenal and, unlike most rights, they can last forever as long as they remain in use for the goods or services covered. Whilst trade marks can be both unregistered and registered, there are huge advantages to registering your marks, and this is the best way of preventing copycats.
The conception of the Fritz-Kola name has an added interesting element, as the founders apparently asked the general public to select their preferred name from a list outside a shopping centre. Another novel and perhaps cost saving method of selecting a brand name!
Today their brand is a household name in Germany, and last year it was the second-largest seller of 330ml glass cola bottles in German shops, behind only Coca-Cola. The figures from research group Nielsen showed that Fritz-Kola sold 71 million glass bottles of that size in 2019, compared with 74 million at Coke, and just 337,000 at Pepsi. While Coke and Pepsi sold many more units in other formats, such as plastic bottles of various sizes and cans, it is quite an achievement for a company launched only 17 years ago from a student apartment.