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It’s lights out for Aldi’s snow globe gin appeal

Aldi has lost its appeal over a copycat version of Marks & Spencer’s light-up snow globe gin. The decision is being hailed as a triumph for designers.

Following a court hearing on 23 January, Aldi has officially reached the end of the road in its attempt to appeal a copyright infringement ruling handed down to the discount retailer last year after it launched a similar gin snow globe product to that released by Marks & Spencer.

Yesterday, the court maintained its original verdict, which found Aldi guilty of unlawfully imitating the M&S snow globe.

The case relates to a product range for the Christmas market introduced by M&S in autumn, 2020, which consisted of gin-based flavoured liqueurs sold in a bottle containing edible gold flakes. These gold flakes became suspended in the liquid when the bottle was shaken, giving an appearance of a golden snow globe. In the base of the bottle was an LED light, which illuminated its contents.

According to court documents: “In November 2021 Aldi launched a rival gin-based flavoured liqueur product range sold in a decorated bottle containing gold flakes and an LED.”

Aldi named its own gin liqueur product Infusionist Small Batch.

The copyright case was first heard in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court in January 2023, when Judge Hacon wrestled with matters such as whether or not an “integrated light” was a fundamental element to Aldi’s design.

In the appeal ruling yesterday the court stated that: “It is tolerably clear from inspection of the images that [the Aldi snow globes] do” contain a light.

Furthermore, the court determined, “the neck of the bottle has a golden shimmer. And… the flakes are illuminated. Taken together, these features suggest an internal source of illumination. Moreover, the images taken from an angled perspective… show a dimple in the base of the bottle which appears to have a light within it.”

The court also identified that Aldi’s design had an identical bottle shape and stopper to the M&S product, and featured a similar “winter scene consisting mostly, of tree silhouettes.”

Any differences between the two retailers’ products, found the court, “are differences of relatively minor detail which do not affect the lack of difference in the overall impression.”

Copyright protection

M&S had obtained four distinct registrations for its original design, offering the store a strong level of protection against potential copycats.

Richard May, IP partner for London-based legal practice Osborne Clarke, called the verdict “the right decision”, adding that it was “great for M&S and a favourable decision for designers.”

“The first instance judgment was a good solid decision and it’s good to see the Court of Appeal endorsing it,” he tells the drinks business.

“This is a very welcome decision for brand owners following so soon after Aldi’s recent lookalike success against Thatchers lemon cider. It emphasises that registered designs are a very useful form of protection against lookalike products and rights holders can achieve success with the right case.”

May recommends that brand owners should create “a thicket of registered rights around products by registering designs as well as trade marks in the fight against lookalikes.”

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