Actor Dan Ackroyd’s latest venture into the wine/spirits market has run afoul of Ontario bureaucrats. The Liquor Control Board of Ontario (LCBO) has refused to sell Ackroyd’s Crystal Head brand vodka at its retail stores because it comes in a skull-shaped bottle.
The beer, wine and spirits industry is highly competitive, so many companies try to obtain maximum IP protection for their products. This includes protecting the shape or design of containers. Akroyd’s company has filed US trademark applications (see 77967530) for the shape of the container and has also successfully applied for design patent protection: US D589,360 S was issued on March 31, 2009.
The skull motiff has been the subject of several US design patents, and has its very own classification in the USPC, D9/626. The earliest patent in this subclass was issued in 1890 (D20,135) for the design of a bottle shaped like a casket with the word “poison” and a skull emblazoned on the front. In fact, many of the early patents in this subclass are for bottles for poison. Images associated with death or the supernatural are a little more hip today, and recently issued patents are clearly for consumer products.