A Year to Drink to – Arnie Clarke considers how best to forget 2020

Of all years, 2020 is surely one where simply completing it is cause for celebration – a memorable one that will hopefully be forgotten as soon as 2021 rolls around. At this time of year, my mind usually turns to the festive season, who I am going to spend it with, and most importantly, what I am going to drink. As a member of the GJE Food & Drink group, my interest in “alcohol technology” stretches beyond the plucky amateur to the devout professional. With this in mind, I thought an interesting exercise would be to review some of the booze-related patent applications that have been filed over the last year or so – so as to better assess how I might select a companion for the holidays.

A scan of the International patent classification codes covering the beverage field reveals that there have been fewer patent applications in this sector than in anti-viral technology. Perhaps not surprising. However, for a technology as old as Man, there are still several hundred inventions relating to the art of libation – several filed by the usual big brewing names, with a good splash of small manufacturers and start-ups.

Disappointingly, a significant number of inventions are directed to removing alcohol from beverages. I have always thought that the best way of achieving this is by drinking them. However, some less conventional methods of dealcoholisation are shown in EP3472298 and EP3330360.

One long-sighted applicant has dealt with the shortcomings of dealcoholized beverages by infusing them with Cannabis – an interesting take on the convention of not mixing your vices. IP protection for cannabis products has rocketed in recent years, with a whole raft of new products, processes and applications being pursued in this interesting and medically beneficial field of technology. Therefore it must be the dinosaur in me that worries that such an innovation would lead to a loss of mouthfeel, and possibly all feeling, so I will leave the self-administration of this technology for if things get really desperate.

Perhaps still hungover from Halloween, one ambitious applicant has applied for a patent entitled “Method For Producing Spirits With Pumpkin Seed Aroma”, and has provided the following appetising picture of its product in Figure 3 of the application:

To my knowledge, no such beverages have hit the high street in London yet, and I am confident that it will require at least two more lockdowns before the level of demand meets the level of consumer desperation before they do.

One spoil-sport has filed a patent application entitled “Binge Behaviour Regulators”. I think it unlikely that this will be commercialised by Christmas, so relax and file your anonymous objections at the patent office in the New Year.

Another application is directed to a device for treating ‘grape must’ – the freshly crushed grape components which go into wine production. This inspired my first festive joke of 2020: One grape says to another, “So how do you want to die? The second grape says “In the traditional fashion – crushed underfoot.” The first grape responds “Must you”. Hopefully, this will become funnier with alcohol consumption, but I am not optimistic.

I was also very interested to see that one invention relates to the production of a wood-based aromatic powder extract which is added to wine as an ageing aid, presumably at the expense of using pricey oak barrels. What was even more interesting was that this application was filed in the name of a very famous Bordeaux chateau’s brand, with no obvious connection between the two – perhaps we shall see an ensuing trade mark dispute! If Chateau Palmer would like to send me a case or two of its 2018 vintage for pointing this out, our offices are still receiving post.

Finally, I was surprised to see an invention entitled “Device And Method For The Treatment Of Slurry, In Particular Liquid Manure”. I instantly wondered whether a new Scottish wine producer had entered the market, but it seems that this application was just misclassified in the C12G1/02 class.

At the risk of a sobering thought, I am delighted that the drinks industry remains innovative and continues to use IP to protect its brands and inventions. Personal experience suggests that it will do well out of this crisis.

So, as the year comes to an end, I am minded of Paulo Coelho’s advice of “Accept what life offers you and try to drink from every cup. All wines should be tasted; some should only be sipped, but with others, drink the whole bottle.” To all of my friends, colleagues and clients, often one and the same, I hope next year brings us back together so we can take practical advantage of that sage advice.

Happy Holidays!

Arnie Clarke

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