Brewing giant Carlsberg recently unveiled two prototypes for a “paper beer bottle”, as part of the firm’s Together Towards Zero environmental initiative.
Carlsberg has been working on this project since 2015, in collaboration with Danish innovation company ecoXpac, packaging company BillerudKorsnäs, and the Danish Technological Institute.
This collaboration has now led to the formation of a new paper bottle company, “Paboco”, which is a joint venture between BillerudKorsnäs and Austrian plastics manufacturer ALPLA. Paboco’s “community of partners” already includes a number of high-profile companies in Carlsberg, Coca Cola, L’Oréal and Absolut.
The bottle – which Carlsberg calls the “Green Fibre Bottle” – has an outer “shell” predominantly made from sustainably-sourced wood fibres, lined with a waterproof inner barrier that separates the liquid from the “paper” outer shell of the bottle.
At this stage, though Carlsberg admits that there is still some way to go before the bottle is ready to enter the market, they have unveiled two different prototypes that are undergoing development.
The first of these prototypes contains an inner barrier made from recycled PET polymer film, while the second prototype instead has an inner barrier formed from bio-based PEF polymer material.
As part of the Paper Bottle project, BillerudKorsnäs reportedly developed the pulp recipe, chemistry and grinding to optimize the Paper Bottle design properties and the bottle’s ability to withstand high pressure, as well as optimising the manufacturing process. The manufacturing process uses a technique based on thermoforming, or impulse drying, which makes it possible to produce intricate bottle designs, quickly and with reduced energy consumption.
Eventually, the aim is to arrive at a packaging solution that is “100% bio-based”, recyclable and biodegradable. In addition to these environmental aims, if these “paper” bottles are to become mainstream alternatives to plastic, glass and aluminium containers, the bottles will have to be manufacturable on a large scale, reliably leak-proof, and capable of keeping the “fizz” in carbonated beverages.
If successful, the bottle would have applications far beyond beer alone, and could potentially be adopted to replace plastic (or indeed glass or aluminium) containers in a wide range of products.
The Intellectual Property
BillerudKorsnäs, Carlsberg and their collaborators in the Paper Bottle project are aiming to produce a more sustainable type of packaging, which requires less energy consumption during manufacture, and leads to a reduction in plastic pollution in the environment. In order to protect the years of investment and hard work that have gone into the project, and to safeguard their position in the sustainable-packaging market, they have also filed patent applications.
A search for published patent rights in the names of the various parties involved in the Paper Bottle project reveals some patent rights that appear to be linked to the present collaboration. Patent applications are not published until 18 months after they are filed, so it is also possible that the latest iterations of the Paper Bottle and its manufacture are covered by other patent applications not yet visible on public registers.
BillerudKorsnäs AB, for example, is the owner of European Patent No. 3375593 (filed on 16 March 2017 and granted on 12 June 2019) titled “METHOD FOR FORMING A CONTAINER WITH A PLASTIC LINER AND FIBRE-BASED SHELL BY BLOW MOLDING, PREFORM AND CONTAINER”. Other patent rights in the name of BillerudKorsnäs include international patent applications WO2018167192 and WO2018167193, both of which relate to fibre-based containers and methods of forming such containers.
Carlsberg Breweries A/S is also named as applicant on European patent application EP3519628 and international patent application WO2018060165, titled “PLANT FIBER PULP CLOSURE FOR A CONTAINER AND METHOD FOR MANUFACTURING A PLANT FIBER PULP CONTAINER WITH A CLOSURE”.
As Carlberg has indicated that there are still some hurdles to overcome before the paper packaging is ready for release, it seems that further technical advances are yet to come. Technical features that solve problems are ideal candidates for patent protection, so when a solution is found that makes these bottles market-ready, that solution should certainly be protected in a patent application before it is made public.
By protecting that innovative solution together with the features covered by existing intellectual property rights, the patent owners and their collaborators will be well placed to make themselves market leaders in sustainable packaging in the years to come.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.