Details of the case
Thatchers, represented by Martin Howe KC, put forward an argument that Aldi's Taurus cider not only mimics the visual elements of its Cloudy Lemon Cider but also replicates the taste. To substantiate its claim, Thatchers has called for a "blind taste test," a bold move that aims to eliminate any preconceived biases influenced by verbal descriptions. Howe contends that such a test would be instrumental in objectively assessing the similarity between the two products.
Aldi's defense, led by Stephanie Wickenden, emphasizes the differences in brand name, logo, and lemon stylizations between the two products. According to her, the distinct brand elements, including the arrangement of the words 'cloudy,' 'lemon,' and 'cider,' set Aldi's Taurus apart from Thatchers' Cloudy Lemon Cider. The defense appears confident that these distinctions are substantial enough to negate any claims of trademark infringement.
Trademark Infringement and Its Consequences:
Trademark infringement occurs when one party's use of a trademark creates a likelihood of confusion with the consumers about the source or origin of the goods or services. Thatchers' claim hinges on the argument that Aldi's Taurus cider not only looks but also tastes strikingly similar to its own product, creating confusion in the market. The court's decision will likely rest on whether the similarities and proof provided by Thatchers’ are significant enough to cause consumer confusion.
If the court finds in favor of Thatchers, Aldi could face severe consequences, including injunctions to stop selling the infringing product, monetary damages, and potential harm to its reputation. Trademarks are the lifeblood of brand identity, and companies vigorously protect them to maintain consumer trust and market share. For Thatchers, winning this case is not just about protecting their product but also safeguarding the substantial investment and research that went into creating and promoting Cloudy Lemon Cider.
Can Product Taste Constitute Trademark Infringement?
While theoretically possible to register a trademark for taste or flavor, the practical reality has proven elusive. Flavors, unlike visual symbols or sounds, have traditionally not been recognized as distinct product identifiers eligible for trademark protection. The taste of a product is considered an intrinsic and essential functional aspect, integral to its nature rather than an exclusive identifier. Courts have historically been reluctant to grant trademark protection to tastes, considering them too subjective, variable, and challenging to objectively define or attribute to a specific source.
Given these legal constraints and the practical difficulties in trademarking flavors, it's highly likely that the taste element in this case will be dismissed. While Thatchers' attempt to introduce a "blind taste test" aims to highlight the similarity between the products, the courts typically refrain from granting trademark protection to flavors due to their intrinsic functional nature. As such, it's improbable that the taste aspect will significantly influence the court's decision in this infringement dispute. Instead, the court is expected to focus on more tangible and established factors, such as product names and their stylizations.