Pinot in the Post – Can Letterbox Friendly Packaging Designs be Protected?

They say necessity is the mother of invention. That may be true, but in this brave new world of social distancing and contactless deliveries, clever product design is also coming to the fore – making it possible to post all sorts of items right through your letter box. In the past month, I’ve ordered letterbox-friendly flowers, chocolate, wine, cocktails and even worms (don’t judge me – my tiny garden is finally getting the attention it deserves!). All of these deliveries have dropped straight onto the doormat without the postman even needing to ring the doorbell and interrupt my inevitable Zoom call. On a more serious note, with more and more of us shopping online, this not only helps everyone keep a safe distance but also significantly speeds up the courier company’s rounds.

Great examples include the new flat wine bottle designed by Garçon Wines, the sophisticated tear-open sleeves conjured up by NIO Cocktails from which you can pour your own drinks, and the clever chocolate boxes slash picture frames sold by Morse Toad.

Inevitably, companies which offer their product in a letterbox-friendly format are going to see a boost in sales over those which don’t. For this reason, innovative packaging is more important than ever – as is protecting the intellectual property which arises in it.

In some cases, where there is a new technical aspect to the packaging, it may be possible to secure patent protection for the concept. However, this will not always be feasible, especially where the advance lies in a new shape or size of a container, for instance. Instead, the appearance of the product can be protected by obtaining a design registration. Third parties who make or sell an article with substantially the same appearance as that shown in the design registration can be stopped.

Design registrations can be obtained quickly (in a matter of days, in the UK and Europe), making them very attractive for a company thinking on its feet.  The UK and European registered designs systems are also set-up for straight-forward and cost-effective filing of multiple designs which allow a company to file several designs for product variants with reduced administration and cost. Both Garçon Wines and NIO Cocktails have taken advantage of this by obtaining registered designs for several versions of their packaging (see for example British design registrations 6003562 to 6003581 and EU design registrations 004521581-0001 to 004521581-0012).

I for one will raise a glass to that!

If you are producing innovative packaging designs and want to find out more about how to protect them, contact Heather via Heather.Scott@gje.com

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