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Aldi ripped off M&S light-up gin bottles, High Court rules

Marks and Spencer light-up gin bottle (left) and Aldi's version (right) - Stobbs IP Limited/PA Wire
Marks and Spencer light-up gin bottle (left) and Aldi's version (right) - Stobbs IP Limited/PA Wire

Aldi has lost a year-long court battle with Marks & Spencer over 'copycat' gin bottles that featured LED lights.

The High Court has ruled that Aldi infringed M&S’s copyright with its “Infusionist” gin bottles, meaning the German discounter could be forced to pay damages to its rival.

The case centred around Aldi's line of 'Infusionist' gin drinks, which contain gold flakes and could be lit up with an LED light.

M&S launched festive gin liqueurs featuring LED lights that illuminated the liquid in the bottles in 2020. The supermarket registered the design of these drinks in April 2021, court documents show.

Aldi began selling its own version of light-up gins the following November.

M&S argued Aldi’s gold flaked, blackberry and clementine gin liqueurs were “strikingly similar” to its own products. Aldi argued the design features in question were “commonplace” and used widely across the alcohol sector.

The Intellectual Property Enterprise court – a wing of the High Court – has now ruled Aldi did in fact infringe M&S’s copyright.

Judge Richard Hacon said differences pointed out by Aldi in its defence were “of relatively minor detail” and not enough to set it apart from M&S's designs.

An Aldi spokesman said the discounter was “disappointed” with the decision and planned to appeal.

It’s not the first time the two retailers have locked horns over ‘copycat’ products. M&S previously sued Aldi over its Cuthbert the Caterpillar chocolate sponge roll, which M&S argued was a knock-off of its popular Colin the Caterpillar cake.

The two retailers reached a settlement on that case in February 2022.

Aldi is well known for designing products that look very similar to mainstream brands, much to the chagrin of the companies behind the products it imitates.

Andrew Keeble, the founder of sausage maker Heck, criticised Aldi for allegedly aping its pack designs in 2018. Aldi now sells Heck’s products.

Somerset cider maker Thatchers is currently suing Aldi over the design of its ‘Taurus’ cider, which Thatchers claims overly resembles its Cloudy Lemon flavour.

An M&S spokesman said: “We are pleased with the judgement, which demonstrates the importance of protecting our innovation. 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.

“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.”