Business

Thatchers cider loses Aldi ‘copycat’ court battle – after judge taste tests drinks

Drinks company Thatchers has lost a High Court trademark battle after it claimed supermarket chain Aldi “copycatted” one of its products.

The Somerset-based cider maker sued the German discount chain for infringing the trademark of its Thatchers Cloudy Lemon Cider.

It claimed that the supermarket had gained an “unfair advantage” by copying the drink in both “taste and appearance”.

But in a ruling on Wednesday, a judge dismissed the case.

The cloudy lemon-flavoured alcoholic drink was launched by Thatchers in February 2020, and in May 2022, Aldi launched its Taurus Cloudy Lemon Cider.

Lawyers representing Thatchers at a trial in London in November argued the Taurus drink was “likely to misrepresent to consumers some commercial connection to Thatchers”.

Aldi had accepted that it used the Thatchers product as a “benchmark” but denied infringement and also denied that it was “passing off” its product as one that appeared to be from the rival company.

Judge Melissa Clarke concluded there was a “low degree of similarity” between the products but added there was “no likelihood of confusion” for consumers.

She added that Aldi’s Taurus drinks did not take unfair advantage and had not been “detrimental” to the reputation of the Thatchers trademark.

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Judge took part in blind taste test

To help form her judgment, Ms Clarke conducted a blind taste test of the two drinks, concluding that the two are different despite making it clear she was “no expert” and “found the taste of the two products to be very similar”.

Martin Thatcher, a fourth-generation cider maker at the family firm, said after the ruling: “Despite the decision not going our way, we still believe taking this action was the right thing to do.

“We care about creating the perfect cider and thanks to a proud history of four generations of expert cider makers innovating and investing, we have done just that.”

While an Aldi spokesperson said: “There’s nothing cloudy about this judgement. It’s clear-cut. Aldi exclusive brands are just that: exclusive to Aldi while leading the market on quality and price.”

The dispute comes as the German chain is embroiled in a separate court battle with Marks and Spencer after being accused of copying its light-up Christmas gin bottles.

Aldi has appealed a High Court decision that it infringed M&S’s design, with a ruling expected at a later date.

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