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  • Writer's pictureSheila Gibson, Esq

Are you building your brand for today? Or are you building FOREVER?

“We are not building Coca Cola for today. We are building Coca Cola forever.” Love this quote! By now, I’ve had several Diet Cokes. No need to tell me it’s terrible for me. It’s an informed decision and I have made worse! With the Coca-Cola formulation still a secret to this day, today is a day to celebrate a lesser known category of IP protection: Trade Secrets. ⁣ Trade secrets protect confidential business information that provides an enterprise a competitive edge. They encompass manufacturing or industrial secrets and commercial secrets, and include things like sales methods, distribution methods, consumer profiles, advertising strategies, lists of suppliers and clients, and manufacturing processes. Trade secrets do not require registration and can be protected indefinitely PROVIDED THEY REMAIN SECRET.⁣ While the secrecy surrounding the Coca-Cola formulation has been one of their best recipe's for success, their IP strategy does not stop there. In the early 1900s, the popularity of Coca-Cola led to knock-offs, such as Koka-Nola, Ma Coca-Co, and Koke. This led to consumer confusion and costly litigation to enforce their trademark rights. So Coca-Cola stepped up their IP protection strategy by creating a distinctive bottle they could protect by design patent.⁣ In 1915 they issued a challenge to create a bottle so unique consumers would recognize it by feel in the dark or broken on the ground. The winning bottle was protected by design patent no. 48,160, issued on Nov. 16, 1915 (swipe), and is still recognizable today! The shape and design were inspired by a cocoa bean with an elongated shape and distinct ribs. ⁣ By 1951 all patents on this particular design had expired. Coca-Cola argued that the bottle should be granted trademark protection because it had acquired distinctiveness. A study showed fewer than 1% of Americans could not identify Coca-Cola by the shape of the bottle, which allowed them to register their distinctive bottle shape by itself as a trademark in 1977. ⁣ A check of the databases today revealed an IP portfolio that includes: almost 500 registered trademarks, 1363 issued patents (since 1975), and 587 registered copyrights.

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