Aldi has been held by High Court to have infringed M&S’s registered designs for a range of gin-based liqueurs.
Aldi’s Infusionist gin liqueur amounts to an infringement of protected designs for M&S’s Light Up gin liqueur range, under the ruling handed down today.
Aldi relied on the fact its bottles had the words ‘The Infusionist Small Batch’ on the front as a point of difference from M&S’s registered designs, on which no words appear.
But the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court – a division of the High Court – decided Aldi’s product nevertheless did not create a sufficiently different overall impression to M&S’s.
The ruling could result in Aldi having to hand M&S damages and an account of its profits from selling the infringing product. Aldi could also face an injunction preventing it from selling its product again.
“We are pleased with the judgment, which demonstrates the importance of protecting our innovation,” said an M&S spokesman.
“For over 138 years, customers have turned to M&S for unique, original, quality products – conceived, created and developed by us, working with our trusted suppliers and produced to the highest standards.
“Like many other UK businesses, large and small, we know the true value and cost of innovation and the enormous time, passion, creativity, energy and attention to detail that goes into designing, developing and bringing a product to market.
“Our customers have confidence in our products because they trust our quality and sourcing standards so we will always seek to protect our reputation for quality, innovation and value.”
An Aldi spokeswoman said: “We are disappointed with this judgment and will be appealing the decision. Aldi is committed to offering customers the highest-quality products, at the lowest possible prices.”
M&S launched its gin liqueur range, containing gold flakes and with an LED light in the base of the bottle, in autumn 2020.
Aldi started selling its gin liqueurs containing gold flakes in a light-up bottle in November 2021, and M&S launched its design infringement claim within weeks.
It is just the latest dispute between the two retailers over similarities between products.
Last year the pair reached a confidential out of court agreement ending a trademark infringement claim brought by M&S, over similarities between Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake and its own Colin the Caterpillar. The dispute saw Aldi taunting M&S in a social media campaign on Twitter.
Carolyn Pepper, partner at Reed Smith, said today’s ruling showed “the real value of registering designs to protect things that are valuable”.
“It’s an example of good design registration processes by M&S,” said Pepper. “They’ve kept good records of their design process, which really tends to help in cases like this.”
In a blog following the ruling, M&S Food CCO Paul Friston said making great products was only possible “if we operate on a fair playing field and that means each player invests in their own product development and customer offer, and operates within a system that rewards innovation”.
Aldi is also being sued by Thatchers over a product which allegedly mimics the cider brand’s Cloudy Lemon Cider. It is the latest in a series of disputes between Aldi and brands over accusations of mimicking.
In 2020, BrewDog teased Aldi on Twitter over similarities between its ‘Anti-Establishment’ beer and the brand’s Punk IPA. BrewDog’s CEO James Watt said the brand would launch a new beer called ‘BrewDog Aldi IPA’ and send some to the supermarket. The product later launched in Aldi stores.
In 2019, Aldi redesigned the packaging of its Italian-style chicken sausages after Heck owner Andrew Keeble accused it of mimicking the brand’s Chicken Italia sausages.
The supermarket was also accused of copying by Yoghurt maker The Collective in 2018.