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Posts Tagged ‘patent’

Powdered Alcohol

powder
As of April 8-21, 2014, this was approved. The federal government approved this brand of powderized alcohol two weeks ago. The reviewing agency has been TTB (not FDA, as some press accounts have said). TTB is a sub-unit of the US Department of Treasury.

First and for a long time, alcohol was just liquid. Then it was whipped, solidified and almost vaporized. And now alcohol is powderized. A really good TV summary is here.

April 21, 2014, 5 pm ET, Update:  The Palcohol company has surrendered all seven label approvals back to TTB. Here is one of the labels as approved on April 8, 2014 and then the same label as “surrendered” April 21. The differing status is shown at the center of each document. TTB has not said much about the change of course. Palcohol has said:  “We have been in touch with the TTB and there seemed to be a discrepancy on our fill level, how much powder is in the bag. There was a mutual agreement for us to surrender the labels.”

I am not astonished that this is a real product — but I am absolutely astonished that this got approved. TTB approved seven versions of this powdered alcohol label on April 8, 2014. It is seven labels covering five products (two rum-like, two vodka-like, one Cosmopolitan-like, one Lemon Drop-like, and one Margarita-like).

Related points:

  • Prediction. The system will work, if not right away, soon. Rules and rulings will be made. Something like democracy will happen. Most of this stuff would need to go through licensed wholesalers with a strong stake in the status quo, so don’t assume they will be eager to carry this. After the initial shock value, perhaps this will be as rare as vodka tampons, eyeballing and vodka injections. Also, the Palcohol company had better get some really, really good liability insurance. Perhaps an enterprising reporter can call some insurance vendors to see if it’s available at any price for a product like this.
  • Patent
  • Historical context
  • Video
  • Mark Phillips, The Palcohol Company, Lipsmark LLC of Tempe, Arizona
  • FAQ

The person that pushed this through must be very patient or lucky and/or good. The product seems highly likely to raise a large number of legal issues and controversies. The company’s website (as of a few days ago) tended to underscore the controversies, saying:  “What’s worse than going to a concert, sporting event, etc. and having to pay $10, $15, $20 for a mixed drink with tax and tip. Are you kidding me?! Take Palcohol into the venue and enjoy a mixed drink for a fraction of the cost.” And:

We’ve been talking about drinks so far. But we have found adding Palcohol to food is so much fun. Sprinkle Palcohol on almost any dish and give it an extra kick. Some of our favorites are the Kamikaze in guacamole, Rum on a BBQ sandwich, Cosmo on a salad and Vodka on eggs in the morning to start your day off right. Experiment. Palcohol is great on so many foods. Remember, you have to add Palcohol AFTER a dish is cooked as the alcohol will burn off if you cook with it…and that defeats the whole purpose.

The current Palcohol website is much more tame and also has a short bio for Mark Phillips, the force behind Palcohol. Over the weekend Mark confirmed that he was in fact quite patient about this; he said:  “The TTB was cautious. It took us nearly four years to get the approval.”

California seems to have been way out in front of this with Regulation 2557. We are not aware of directly and specifically relevant TTB rules, and this may well explain why no rules blocked the initial approvals. Many thanks to John for finding these Palcohol approvals among millions of obscure government records.

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Beer Pong and Related Patent News

We try to stay on the lookout for good and serious patents related to alcohol beverages. A few good ones are here. Today, we wanted to take a look at the ones that seem even less serious and a bit more, frothy. Dan Christopherson is an experienced trademark lawyer, and a registered patent lawyer, and Dan located a few good examples as below. Dan explained, “With all of the bad press coming out lately reporting craft brewers suing each other for allegedly infringing their intellectual property rights, we thought it might be a good idea to try to lighten the mood a bit.”  With that in mind, here are a few humorous beer-related patent applications Dan came across:

  • Tooth Protector for Beverage Bottle and Beverage Bottle Enclosure” – US Patent Application No. 2012/0225166 by Krag David Hopps. I get as excited as the next guy/girl when I crack open a bottle of craft beer. That said, I have, to date, been able to temper my excitement enough to avoid crashing into and injuring my incisors with a beer bottle. Unfortunately for those individuals who have not shared in my good fortune, to quote Mr. Hopps, “No device has heretofore been available to protect a person’s teeth when he/she is drinking from a glass bottle.”  This device, shown on the left, literally shields a beer drinker’s teeth from a beer bottle while drinking from the bottle. Mr. Hopps’ invention is sure to bring us into the golden age of bottle consumption safety. Good news for those of you with drinking problems.
  • Chewing gum with containing ethanol flavors“ - US Patent Application No. 2013/0034625 by David L. Ross. It is truly unfortunate that this patent application apparently does not include any images because I would love to see what this invention looks like. Mr. Ross has invented a beer flavored gum wrapped in a beer mug/bottle/keg shaped packaging “that encloses between 0.01 milliliters and 2 milliliters of alcoholic beverage [ethanol] in at least one cavity inside the gum.”  Our rough calculations show that you’d have to chew at least 18 pieces of gum to get about the same alcohol content as a single bottle of a popular macrobrew. Better a sore jaw than a sore liver, I guess.
  • Netting system for drinking games” – US Patent Application No. 20120071278 by Andrew Mansfield. We agree with Mr. Mansfield’s sentiment that “a need exists for a cheap, easy to manufacture and an easy to use system that prevents ping pong balls from hitting the surrounding floor during game play.”  As Mr. Mansfield points out, the previous attempt to clean up these games by providing wash cups to clean playing balls before throwing them into an opponents’ beer glass “is inefficient and often ineffective as the wash cups become dirty and contaminated from repeated contact with dirty ping pong balls as the game progresses. In addition, research has shown that the wash cups still hold bacteria, such as E. coli.”  Without going through Mr. Mansfield’s undoubtedly comprehensive research results, we are relieved to hear that hygiene-conscious partygoers will no longer be left out of beer pong games.
  • Beer Pong Table with Cooling System” United States Patent No. 8,235,389, issued to Big Dog Pong, LLC. Big Dog Pong also took great strides to improve the great sport of Beer Pong with this invention. A true visionary, they recognize that playing beer pong on kitchen tables, closet doors, and other homemade tables can “unfairly affect the game” and that “beverages may become warm during play.” Big Dog Pong accomplishes all of this by placing a series of cooling areas into the table top surface of a standardized beer pong table.

We hope this post inspires you toward some frivolous or not so frivolous inventions of your own, or at least provides a welcome respite from the serious side of law, business, and intellectual property.

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Oxygen Enriched Bourbon

oxygen

This Bourbon label caught our eye because it makes several big claims. It says:

  1. FINISHED WITH AN OXYGEN ENRICHED, ACCELERATED AGING PROCESS
  2. Patent Pending
  3. Pressure-Aged
  4. “we use rapid pressure changes and oxygen infusion to control the aging process”
  5. “age is no longer relevant and taste is all that matters.”

That’s a lot of envelope-pushing and innovation for one label. We happen to know a person who is both an experienced patent lawyer and an experienced whiskey distiller. So, in a future post, we hope to have him review the patent claims and assess whether this is closer to an innovation or a gimmick. The Bourbon is produced and bottled by Cleveland Whiskey, LLC of Cleveland, Ohio. The approval is here. Terressentia’s closely-related patent, also for aging spirits quickly, is described here.

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Design Patents

I got to talking with Dan Matauch the other day. He is a leading package designer in Michigan, at Flowdesign. I would have been impressed enough that he handled the design for Honest Tea. But he also handled Peet’s Tea, and Xango (aka Tiger Blood), and most of the designs really appeal to me. The list goes on and on, with Catdaddy Carolina Moonshine, Blue Ice Vodka, and the not-to-be-ignored Bawls and Stubb’s.

I was fairly surprised to see that Dan worked on the package design for Pama Pomegranate Liqueur — and it had some kind of patent. The March 2010 press release says:

To differentiate its product, PAMA Spirits turned to the expertise of Flowdesign to develop a custom bottle that was both unique and could be patented. … Flowdesign is a unique branding firm where experience is infused in both brand graphics and structural design. Founded in 1997, Flowdesign has led the brand design field in custom structural design with 10 prestigious GPI (Glass Packaging Awards).

It surprised me because the conventional wisdom seems to be that it’s normal to get a trademark related to alcohol beverages — but it’s not realistic to get a patent. The conventional wisdom may be too simple. We have covered several alcohol beverage-related patents in the past, such as Malt Liquor, Cubes, and Fruity Caps. To understand this better, I talked with Paul Hletko. Paul is perfect to dissect this because he happens to be a patent lawyer — and runs Few Spirits (of Evanston, Illinois). Paul explained as follows:

The beverage alcohol business is exceptionally competitive.  Innovative companies are always trying to distinguish themselves to stand out from the competition, while others try to engage in “sincere flattery.”  Brands can go a long way by distinguishing themselves with distinctive and unique propositions, but this can attract copying.  After investing the time and money for uniqueness, it is rare that a brand welcomes a copycat.  Protecting against these problems can be expensive short term, but prove highly valuable long term. One of the first strategies to protect innovation is the use of trademarks.  However, trademarks are “usage” based and thus have certain advantages and disadvantages.  In particular, it can be difficult to gain traction with a new trademark. This short post is not intended to address trademarks – another topic for another day.

Another potential strategy is to seek patent protection for unique and nonfunctional designs.  In the beverage alcohol industry, this typically means unique bottle designs. For example, the PAMA brand secured design patent protection for a new bottle. D598,777 S claims this unique bottle shape, and gives its owner the exclusive right to make, use, or sell bottles with that design for the life of the patent.  Other designs could also qualify for design patents, such as a unique bar top (Blanton’s) or the like. A design patent covers the design of an object, so long as the design is not mandated by the function.  Additionally, the design must be novel as well as not obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art.  Unlike trademarks, however, design patents have a limited life span, and the patentee may be faced with questions about what to do after the patent expires.  But, so long at the design patent remains in force, the owner of the design patent has the exclusive right to make, use, or sell the design.

Unlike trademarks, design patents are based on registration, and prior to registration, the design patent application must be examined to ensure that the design is indeed novel, useful, and nonobvious.  Unfortunately, this can cost money, but the advantage of the exclusive right to make, use, or sell may justify the investment.  If your product is getting a new bottle or other design flourish, you should consider trying to protect the investment. By no means does this brief note apply to all situations, and it is not legal advice, but it should help you talk with your attorney – consult your attorney for guidance on how best to capitalize on your unique situation.

Thus, if one of your brand’s differentiating characteristics is a new bottle design or other similar packaging, consider and evaluate whether a design patent would be appropriate. Paul explained that the cost will likely be significantly lower than the investment in the new design itself (molds, designers, etc.) and the investment may prove highly valuable when the “flattery” starts.

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Cubes of Cachaca

cubes

Here is Leblon Cachaca Ice Cubes. It is Brazilian rum (with flavor), in a 200 ml. pack designed to freeze.

This should be of interest to Camper English at Alcademics, as he is inclined to tinker with all manner of alcohol beverages and ice.

The label says this product is “Made with Glazierepura Natural Freeze Technology.” BevNetwork explains that Glazierepura is a newly patented technology that can “freeze any alcohol and does not affect the flavor profile of the spirit.” Even though this Leblon product is only 40 proof, the technology would allow, for example, making ice cubes out of vodka — or even Single Malt Scotch. The US-Israeli company behind this technology partnered with Leblon for the offical US launch, on April 27, 2009 in New York.

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