UB and SABMiller: bottle patent to restrict reuse and cut costs

Beer makers United Breweries Ltd (UB) and the Indian branch of SABMiller, have announced that they will be patenting their bottles to The two companies, which together control 80% of the Indian beer m…

Beer makers United Breweries Ltd (UB) and the Indian branch of SABMiller, have announced that they will be patenting their bottles to The two companies, which together control 80% of the Indian beer market, will therefore be able to buy back their respective bottles. “This will help us have a control on the availability and pricing of second-hand bottles,” said UB“s deputy president Shekhar Ramamurthy. The two firms have therefore applied to the controller general of patents, designs and trademarks to patent the specific shapes and designs of their bottles. During the period pending approval, the law will prevent other beer makers from reusing UB“s or SABMiller“s bottles. UB uses second-hand bottles for 75% of its bottling needs, while bottling accounts for 40% of its total costs, said Ramamurthy. However, according to market experts, the second-hand bottle industry is unorganized and dominated by middlemen, who hoard used bottles, therefore causing the prices of second-hand bottle prices to rise 30% in the last two years. Sundeep Kumar, director, corporate affairs and communications at SABMiller, said that the decision to patent the bottles was also due to branding reasons and the need to increase manufacturing efficiency. Both firms plan to introduce patented bottles across India in a gradual manner to prevent flooding the market. Prices of second-hand bottles range between INR 3.50 and INR 5, depending on the time of the year and the state, compared to the price of new bottles at INR 8.50.