Alcohol-free producer Big Drop Brewing Co has successfully challenged part of a trademark for the term ‘Dry January’.

 In a statement from Big Drop, the company said the trademark for Dry January was registered by Alcohol Research UK (now known as Alcohol Change UK) in 2014 to support its science-based resources for harmful and hazardous drinkers.

“This was in the primary class of educational and behavioural change programmes but, in 2022, Alcohol Change UK sought to extend the trademark in new areas of products and services,” the producer said.

According to Big Drop, the attempt to trademark the phrase meant that Alcohol Change UK argued that no one else – including low/no brands, venues and retailers – could use the words in relation to selling drinks.

 Rob Fink (pictured), founder of Big Drop, said: “The alcohol-free movement has been driven by innovative start-up brands over the last few years by offering drinkers palatable alternatives for January and beyond. A lot of people across the board actually enjoy doing Dry January to give their bodies a much-needed rest while seeking out new alternatives emerging in the drinks world. Indeed, 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.”

In response to the ruling, Dr Richard Piper, chief executive of Alcohol Change UK said: “In 2022, we sought to extend registered protection for the word mark into some new classes, to reflect our growing partnerships and other activities surrounding the programme. Our application for the word mark was accepted in all these new classes by the Trade Marks registry. However, whilst the registry accepted our extension of the word mark in all the new classes, it was successfully opposed by Big Drop Brewing for goods and services in classes 30, 32, and parts of 35 and 43 in a ruling in February 2024.”

Piper said the ruling did not change Alcohol Change UK’s ability to protect against ‘passing off’ – for example if a brand names a product Dry January Pale Ale.

He also said references to the Dry January programme by alcohol-free or low-alcohol drinks producers or retailers are still protected by the original 2013 registration. “For example implying, ‘This drink will help you with the Dry January programme’ or using #dryjanuary next to their product in a manner which indicates that Alcohol Change UK has authorised that use or the product is associated with our programme,” he added.

To read the full ruling, click here.