I hope you’re having a good week.
Today I want to talk a little bit about a case which has the IP fraternity’s ears pricked up for a number of reasons.
The case concerns budget supermarket Lidl and Tesco.
As you may be more than aware – the budget supermarkets (specifically Aldi, and to a lesser degree Lidl) have had a number of different legal spats as it relates to intellectual property – with the likes of the originators of Colin the Caterpillar and the like taking umbridge at the budget supermarkets seemingly closely inspired own brands.
Anecdotally, the success of the new budget supermarkets, when compared to their forebears, has been how close to the line they have been willing to go when it comes to offering the buying public quality goods at low prices – which also have a passable resemblance to the branded goods they offer an alternative to.
The effect in the mind of the consumer is that of a "next best version" – with varying degrees of palpable “bleeding” of goodwill from the genuine into the alternative.
In an economic environment where consumers are becoming more selective, such a proposition has proven to be popular – with many consumers able to enjoy cheaper, albeit quality products that retain some of the feel of the named brands.
In the broader context, the branded products are almost redshifted from genuine to “luxury”, as consumers become more discerning and compromising in their purchasing choices.
Indeed, nowadays you may often see people get certain items from the more expensive supermarkets (Booth’s, Waitrose, M&S) and other less significant items from Aldi or Lidl.
So it goes, and over the past decade or so, there has rarely been a time where a brand or supermarket has found itself without the budget supermarkets in their crosshairs over the proximity of a brand to their own.
In this case, however, the shoe is on the other foot! And it is indeed Lidl who is seeking to enforce against Tesco as it relates to the similarity of a certain visual element to their logo.
Let me explain in a bit more detail.
The yellow circle
So, what does this case concern – when it comes down to it?
Tesco began using a yellow circle within its stores to specifically highlight Clubcard deals being offered for those looking to make savings or operate on a budget.
Lidl saw this and alleged that the use of the yellow circle brought to mind their logo which prominently utilizes a yellow circle with the brand name displayed over it and as such Tesco were positively benefitting from the conscious or unconscious association with Lidl when it comes to use of the yellow circle to demarcate cheaper deals in stores.
(Notably, Lidl do have a registration for the yellow logo on its own… But more on that in a bit.)
It has been quite an interesting back and forth, all things considered, and is representative of how competitors like to take chunks out of each other now and again.