Protecting innovation and investment in developing bottle-shaped metal cans

First tobacco… now food and drink?

For beverage packaging, bottle-shaped metal cans are becoming a popular choice over generic cylindrical-shaped cans and glass/plastic bottles. Although the overall environmental impact of glass versus plastic versus metal is debated, the beverage industry is innovating in this area in response to consumer demand for non-plastic packaging.[1]

Aluminium containers can chill contents faster than plastic bottles, keeping contents colder for longer.[2]

Importantly, bottle-shaped cans offer a distinctive, eye-catching alternative to more commonly-used packaging, and can be a driver of consumer choice.[3]

Whilst there are many commercial reasons to package drinks in bottle-shaped cans, developing these containers comes with challenges. Significant investment is required to produce a quality finished product. As manufacturers improve their products and processes to overcome these challenges, new inventions continue to be born out of their development efforts.

For example, a can must withstand stresses during the spin-necking manufacturing process. If it cannot, defects in finish, neck and rim can occur, such as draw marks, wrinkles, stains, bends and dents. Speciality coatings are being developed for application before spin-necking, protecting the can from these stresses by, for example, increasing the metals abrasion resistance whilst retaining the flexibility of the can. More efficient processes are helping manufacturers create bottles faster, without compromising on the quality of the finished product.

Product development process and patents

Coatings, processes and many other inventions arising out of the effort to produce the ideal bottle-shaped can, can all be protected from replication by competitors. Protecting this investment to safeguard the commercial advantage bottle-shaped cans provide, is an important aspect of the product development process.

A patent, once granted, gives an organisation the legal ability to stop another organisation from making, selling, etc. a product that falls within the scope of protection. Likewise, a third party can be prohibited from carrying out a particular process to produce the product.

Any advancement to the process of making bottle-shaped cans which, for example, makes the process more efficient, or improves the final product, is likely to be innovative, ‘inventive’, and therefore, patentable. Equally, new coatings tend to be highly innovative and therefore patent protection can be sought to protect these types of inventions.

Even though filing a patent application means that the details of your invention are publicly disclosed, not obtaining protection for your invention could be risky if competitors can work out your formulation or method through reverse-engineering.

[1] “Plastic bottles vs. aluminum cans: who’ll win the global water fight?”, Reuters
[2] “Aluminum Bottle Trend”, The Packaging Insider
[3] “Four Beverage Packaging Trends That Are on the Rise”, BevSource

 

A contributed article from Appleyard Lees

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