coke bottles

©oke: the real thing?

Our fourth OCL4Ed challenge is to construct a blog post containing a range of sources. You are encouraged to blog “off-topic”. As such I’ve decided to have a think about coke.

The Coke script logo is interesting. I expected it to be copyright but found out that this is not the case:

“This image only consists of simple geometric shapes and/or text. It does not meet the threshold of originality needed for copyright protection, and is therefore in the public domain.”
This quote is shared under a CC-BY-SA license

Note that it can still be a Registered Trade Mark even if it is not copyright.

Coca Cola
The Spencerian Script logo
 Personalised bottle
Your name(?) on the bottle.
Image Source: GeoBlogs shared under a CC-BY-NC license.

In the summer of 2013 Coke ran their Share a Coke campaign –  replacing the product name (‘Coke’) with a first name (such as the example ‘Alan’ in this image).  The full list of 250 names used in the UK market was carefully chosen:

“For Share a Coke, we worked closely with Experian, an independent expert and the nation’s leading data insight and analysis company, to identify 250 of Great Britain’s most popular names. This data reflects both the gender and ethnic make-up of the population.”

Accessed 15 Feb 2014

This suggests that the iconic ‘contour bottle’ shape and the red and white artwork is now enough to identify the brand. The question is, would seeing your name encourage you to buy a bottle? Conversely, if your name’s not available does that damage your relationship with the Coke brand?

Football-themed coke
This football-shaped bottle shows a counter example where the bottle shape is lost but the colours and logo are retained. It seems you need two out of three…
Source: FicusDesk shared under a CC-BY-SA license.

If imitation is a sign of success then we should conclude that this promotion worked for Coke. HP and the Famous Grouse are just two brands who have subsequently launched similar de-branding ad campaigns (Howley, 2014).

The iconic nature of the bottle can be seen in these two examples below:

blue bottle

Jean Paul Gaultier was recently paid by Coca Cola to look at the Diet Coke brand and add a bit of high-fashion to the cans and bottles. The result is a series of limited edition bottles bedecked in Breton stripes and corsets inspired by Madonna. The print advert features two models wearing outfits that themselves resemble the newly styled Diet Coke bottles [taking things one step further than having your name on the bottle – they  now have the bottle on them]. These Gaultier designs are available in Europe but not the US. Photos from the ad campaign can be found at

Source: The information about  Gaultier’s involvement is adapted from an article on shared under a CC-BY license.


Howley, Mark (2014) “Why did Coke put your names on its bottles? De-branding is the new branding” London Loves Business 5th January 2014. Accessed 15 Feb 2014.


Ironically, the most difficult type of work I found to obtain was the first task: Text you can legally copy and modify, about 300 words.
Where can you get that? I only managed somewhere around 70 words, quickly exhausting my knowledge of high fashion 🙂

This blog posts contains material covered by five different licenses:

  • PD – it seems that the Coca-Cola image I used is considered to be in the Public Domain.
  • CC-BY – The discussion of Jean Paul Gaultier’s Diet Coke campaign
  • CC-BY-SA – The photo of the football shaped Coke bottle from flickr
  • CC-BY-NC – The photo of the named Coke bottle on flickr
  • Copyright  – I have taken short quotes or referenced the findings of two articles published on the web where the owner/publisher is retaining copyright. These are the information from Coke about the selection of names for their Share a Coke campaign, and the analysis of the effect of this campaign  y the journalist Mark Howley. I  linked but did not include the images of the Gaultier campaign on my blog. The pictures are on the fashionetc website but seem to have been originally posted on Facebook. I expect they are covered by copyright and so opted not to include them here.

So after considering the CC remix matrix I think I can combine these items and have one license choice for this post under a CC-BY-NC-SA license.

That might have been a license that I would have selected before I started this course, but isn’t what I would have liked to use here, had I a free hand.  During #OCL4Ed we were shown some articles that made a convincing argument against using the NC option, so I would rather have used a less restrictive license such as CC-BY or CC-SA that unlike this one would be a free cultural works approved license. To achieve this I’d have to remove the coke bottle images or find alternatives.

Background image by HPDeutschland shared under a CC-BY-NC-SA license.


2 thoughts on “©oke: the real thing?”

  1. Interesting example approaching things from a slightly different angle. This person has created a 3D model of a Coke botle and shared the details of the model under a CC-BY-SA license:
    I was also very impressed by some of the artistic plays on the Coke logo on deviantart, but couldn’t include the images on my blog as they are all (unsurprisingly) copyright the artist. My favourites is probably this one:

  2. Hi Malcolm – Interesting post which highlights a number of important principles regarding the threshold of originality and trademarks (another area of intellectual property).

    You check the threshold for originality under your own copyright act which may not be as liberal as the case is in the US with reference to geometric shapes and text. You are correct in pointing out that “Coca Cola” is a registered trademark, and consequently the use of the logo is determined by the terms of reference of the trademark – -see: While in the US, it may not be possible to assert copyright on the logo – -the provisions of the trademark restricts use of the logo.

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