Must-Know Cases and Deals

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Ludo Lugnani
Ludo Lugnani

Hi this is ZipLaw! Today we run through the week's top court cases and deals law firms acted on so you can use them to stand out in applications. All of them (and more) are added to our ZipTracker database every day.

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Here’s what we’re serving today:

  • Court cases involving: Freeths, Freshfields and Willkie Farr
  • Deals involving: Addleshaw Goddard, Stephenson Harwood and Hogan Lovells
  • News involving: Simmons & Simmons, Allen & Overy, DLA Piper

Aldi vs M&S: Gin Bottle Case

In Short: The Court of Appeal dismissed Aldi's appeal to a High Court ruling that it infringed Marks & Spencer's light-up gin bottle designs.

The Facts:
Aldi's appeal was against a High Court decision that sided with Marks & Spencer (M&S), finding Aldi guilty of copying M&S's "Snow Globe" gin bottle designs with its "Infusionist" brand. The case revolved around a grace period during which M&S disclosed its designs without jeopardizing their novelty or individual character for registration purposes.

What Was Each Party Arguing:

  • Aldi's Argument: Aldi argued that the grace period relevant for design registration should not influence the assessment of design infringement. It also argued that the High Court erroneously disregarded other designs that did not create a "different overall impression" and misinterpreted the background of some M&S designs.
  • M&S's Case: M&S argued that Aldi's "Infusionist" gin bottles were too similar to its "Snow Globe" bottles, constituting an infringement of registered designs. M&S maintained that the grace period and the overall impression of the designs were correctly applied in the initial ruling.

The Court Decision:
The Court of Appeal upheld the High Court's decision, reinforcing the principle that disclosures during the grace period should be excluded from infringement analyses and affirming the similarity between Aldi's and M&S's bottle designs.

Impact and Key Points for Discussion:

  1. Grace Period in Design Infringement: The affirmation that the grace period for design disclosure applies equally to infringement assessments underscores the protective scope afforded to designers during early stages of public disclosure. This principle is crucial for encouraging transparency and innovation, as it allows designers to showcase their creations without immediate fear of losing protection rights.
  2. Assessment of 'Overall Impression': The case highlights the subjective nature of determining an 'overall impression' in design infringement cases. The courts' focus on minor differences and the visual impact on an informed user sets a precedent for how future design disputes may be evaluated, emphasising the nuanced interpretation of design elements and their collective impact.
  3. Interplay Between Innovation and Imitation: This ruling serves as a cautionary tale for companies about the fine line between drawing inspiration from existing designs and outright copying. It underscores the importance of originality and the legal protection that innovation enjoys, potentially shaping how businesses approach product design and development to avoid legal pitfalls.

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