M&S and Aldi are no strangers to falling out, settling the famous Colin Caterpillar v Cuthbert Caterpillar case in early 2022. This latest case concerned decorative gin bottles, aimed at the Christmas market.
In autumn of 2020, M&S launched a line of gin liqueur products, in a bell-shaped bottle. These were special in that they had a button on the base that lit up the bottle and gold flakes that suspended in the gin like a snow globe, the bottles were further adorned with a festive scene.
The following year Aldi launched their ‘Infusionist’ gin liqueur range. Their bottles also had suspended gold flakes and lit up, the bottle was also bell-shaped and decorated with a winter scene.
M&S alleged that Aldi’s product range infringed four of M&S’ registered designs, whereas Aldi argued that its design was different in a number of ways. Aldi pointed out that the registered designs of M&S feature winter scenes including a stag and a doe created using a white colour only, whereas the Aldi design used colour and is a scene of wintry trees. Aldi also pointed out that ‘The Infusionist Small Batch’ branding on the front of their design was different – with M&S’s bottles not having a label – and that by virtue of this branding, their bottles had a front, whereas M&S’ bottles do not.
The judge found that the details Aldi pointed out “are there, but they are differences of relatively minor detail which do not affect the lack of difference in the overall impression produced by the Aldi bottles”.
As the Aldi bottles did not produce a different overall impression it was considered that Aldi’s design therefore infringed M&S’s registered designs. This decision means that Aldi may be subject to an injunction preventing the sale of ‘The Infusionist’ light-up gin bottles in future, and they may also have to pay damages or an account of profit to M&S.
A spokesperson for M&S said it was “pleased with the judgement” while Aldi 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”.