Non-alcoholic UK brewer Big Drop Brewing has successfully challenged a trademark on the term ‘Dry January’.

The charity Alcohol Change UK, which aims to reduce alcohol harm, started the Dry January programme in 2013 and registered a trademark for educational services.

In 2022, Alcohol Change UK sought to extend the trademark to areas including products, promotional activities and merchandise.

The charity said it “coined the term” and has invested “significantly” in its promotion for a decade, while also policing its use and licencing.

However, Big Drop Brewing opposed the extended trademark in four classes that covered non-alcoholic beverages and the marketing or sale of drinks, as well as its use by food and drink services in hospitality.

The brewer argued Alcohol Change UK was trying to monopolise the term. “Seeking registration for the contested goods and services prevents legitimate producers and sellers selling such products and providing the same during January and other times in the year. Registration should be refused to prevent an unfair monopoly arising.”

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The UK Intellectual Property Office ruled that the use of the word in relation to the sale or promotion of beverages is not seen as a trademark.

Big Drop Brewing’s opposition to the trademark on the four classes 30, 32, 35 and 43 was upheld in full by the UK Intellectual Property Office. Alcohol Change UK was ordered to pay its dispute costs of £1,850 ($2,300).

Rob Fink, the founder of Big Drop Brewing said: “High-quality alcohol-free drinks give people a reason to go and support the hospitality industry in January and reward retailers who go large on their seasonal displays.

“Many of those brands are pretty much aligned with Alcohol Change UK on the need for effective work towards reducing alcohol harm so it makes sense to work together and not put up unnecessary barriers.”

Big Drop Brewing was the first beverage partner of the charity’s Dry January programme. Last year, Alcohol Change UK worked with brands including Lucky Saint and Lyre’s.

Dr Richard Piper, CEO of Alcohol Change UK said the trademark ruling “made no change to Alcohol Change UK’s ability to protect the unregistered right acquired in our brand under the common law of ‘passing off’, for example by any company that chose to name a product, for example, the ‘Dry January Pale Ale’”.

He added: “We have enforced, and will continue to enforce, our trademark rights against unauthorised third parties who apply the Dry January trademark to goods or supply services under the Dry January trademark for goods and services for which we have registrations.”