A new range of ready meals has allegedly landed a supermarket in hot water, after claims that it may have breached a diet company’s intellectual property (IP) rights.
Slimming World is reportedly considering legal action against Aldi after it launched its ‘Slim Free’ low calorie, low fat meal range aimed at the diet market.
The meals, which are being rolled out across the supermarket’s chain of stores nationwide, are causing controversy because the Aldi packaging allegedly looks very similar to Slimming World’s ‘Syn Free’ range of diet products.
A statement on Facebook, purportedly posted by Slimming World, reads: “As you know, Aldi have recently launched a range of new frozen ready meals under the brand name Slim Free, and we’re aware that members have been asking about them, in particular whether or not they are ‘free’ on our Food Optimising eating plan.
“We believe that the meals infringe Slimming World’s trademarks and because of that we are entering into legal action against Aldi.
“As a result, we’re sorry to let you know that we won’t be adding the meals to the database at this time. That means we aren’t designating them as either having a ‘Syn’ value or being ‘Free’.”
Slimming World, which launched its own range of ‘Syn Free’ ready meals some years ago, has previously taken legal action against Asda, which forced the supermarket giant to temporarily remove its own-brand range from store shelves whilst the packaging was redesigned.
Luke Morgan, a Partner with Palmers, who specialises in IP law, said: “The success of any legal action to prevent trademark infringement depends on whether the defendant’s use causes a likelihood of confusion to the average consumer.
“Although it is common practice for supermarkets to offer ‘own brand’ versions of well-known branded items, the test in any alleged trademark dispute will be whether the packaging is so similar that shoppers will mistakenly purchase an item in the belief that they have picked up the ‘real McCoy.’
“Earlier this year, KitKat lost a long-running battle following attempts to protect the shape of its four-fingered chocolate snack which could pave the way for competitors and supermarket own-brands in the UK to introduce their own versions of four-fingered chocolate wafer bars without fear of trademark infringements.
“Whatever the outcome of this latest alleged IP dispute, the issues faced by supermarket retailers apply equally to other businesses who may be tempted to capitalise on a competitor’s brand awareness by ‘passing off’ a similar product or service of their own.
“For advice and support on all aspects of intellectual property law including trademark protection, please contact us.”