Protecting food innovation

Australia’s leading branded food manufac­turers and marketers are to be congratulat­ed on their achievements in a very competi­tive market.

However, even the most successful companies will be aware of the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Not least of these arise from the private label business: its growing sophistication, the increas­ing number of private label products, and com­petition for space on the retailers’ shelves.

The threat to brand owners is that private label operators will quickly assimilate inno­vations, focusing the market on price alone as a differentiator and discouraging invest­ment in all but superficial innovation.

The value of brands is tied up in intellec­tual assets: brand names, logos, pack design, manufacturing technology and know-how, product design and formulations.

It is likely that the most successful mar­keters of the future will be those most adept at protecting and leveraging these assets.

In particular, with the present trend toward out-sourcing and contracting research and development and product development services, it is inevitable that greater use of formal intellectual asset protection strate­gies will be key to effective intellectual asset management and commercial advantage.

For Australia in particular, it is likely that the recently introduced Innovation Patent system will be increasingly used to protect the incremental, but important, product and packaging developments that might not have been protectable under patents in the past.

In addition, the recent overhaul of the Reg­istered Design system is likely to make it more useful than it may have been in the past for effectively protecting product and packaging design innovations.

Taco patent

The Old El Paso Stand’N’Stuff taco shell is a great example of how a useful, marketable product development can be protected by the innovation patent in Australia.

General Mills Marketing Inc. owns a certi­fied (enforceable) innovation patent (no. 2006100568) entitled ‘Square Bottom Taco Shell’.

This patent allows them to stop any com­petitor making or marketing any free-stand­ing taco shell which has the key elements of a flat base attached to upright sides — regard­less of any other feature or the appearance of the competitor’s taco shell.

This is not a high-tech develop­ment, but it is a useful and mar­ketable point of difference which can be protected.

Contact Adam Hyland, Watermark, for more information.

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