THIS year, the iconic Coca-Cola contour bottle celebrates its 100th anniversary.
Back in 1915, the Root Glass Company developed the bottle design after The Coca-Cola Company asked a number of manufacturers to develop a design that would make it more distinctive.
Specifically, the company asked manufacturers to create a design that wasn't just distinctive — it had to be so special that it could be recognized only by touch and still recognized visually even after it shattered.
The bottle design that the Root Glass Company in Terre Haute, Indiana created was based on a picture of a cocoa pod that the primary designer, Earl R. Dean, found in the Encyclopedia Britannica. He used that image to create a prototype, which The Coca-Cola Company selected as its new bottle design.
The prototype never made it to production since its middle diameter was larger than its base. According to Dean, this would make it unstable on the conveyor belts. Dean then equalized the middle and bottom diameters and the Coca-Cola bottle as we know it today was born. By 1916, the new bottle was available to consumers.
Two prototype bottles survive. One is owned by The Coca-Cola Company and the other was sold at auction a few years ago for $240,000 (P10.6 million). Dean's original concept drawing was also sold at auction for $228,000 (P10.1 million).
In 1923, the design was patented with the company obtaining a second patent on the design in 1937, which enabled the company to protect its bottle design for another 14 years.
It took nearly 50 more years for the Coca-Cola contour bottle with the Coca-Cola name on it to be trademarked in 1960, which gave The Coca-Cola Company protection indefinitely. It took another three more years for the bottle shape alone to be trademarked.
While the bottle has evolved over the years, it still retains that instantly recognizable contour shape. Today, all of that intellectual property is worth billions of dollars to The Coca-Cola Company, and the company enforces its patent and trademark protections vigorously.
To celebrate the 100th anniversary of the contour bottle, The Coca-Cola Company launched a special website and a year-long campaign in the US: http://www.corporate-eye.com/main/coca-cola-contour-bottle-turns-100-this-year/