Sunday 25 February 2018

Aldi sues Dunnes Stores over alleged trademark infringement

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SUPERMARKET giant Aldi has sued Dunnes Stores over a comparative advertising campaign involving allegedly misleading commercial practices and trademark infringement.

Aldi alleges Dunnes had put up banners and labels in several stores across the country conveying what it says is the "completely misleading impression" that various Dunnes products are cheaper than the equivalent Aldi products.

It also alleges Dunnes compared a series of products which were not comparable on grounds including that the weights or quality differed.

Mr Justice Peter Kelly granted an application by Michael McDowell SC, for Aldi, to fast-track the action in the Commercial Court.

Mr McDowell said there had been "a history of skirmishing" between the companies over the matter but a stage had been reached where banners were being used by Dunnes stating "lowest price guaranteed" which was "untrue and misleading".

While Aldi had written to Dunne about its concerns, it "just got the brush off", counsel added.

The proceedings have been brought by Aldi Stores (Ireland) Ltd and Aldi GmbH & Co. Kg against Dunnes Stores.

In its claim, Aldi alleges Dunnes, on dates unknown and on dates in October and November last, infringed Aldi trademarks by displaying banners in several Dunnes' supermarkets, including in Counties Cork, Kerry, Kildare, Louth, Offaly and Waterford containing the words "Lower Price Guarantee" and "Guaranteed Lower Prices on all your Family Essentials every week".

Aldi alleges the banners failed to comply with the Consumer Protection Act 2007 and the European Communities (Misleading and Comparative Advertising) Regulations 2007 on grounds including they failed to objectively compare one or more of the relevant and verifiable features of the Dunnes' products with those of Aldi Ireland.

The banners also conveyed the impression Dunnes' products generally, or its "Family Essentials" range, were cheaper than those of Aldi Ireland when there was "no basis" for such a claim, Aldi contends.

Aldi alleges Dunnes has been carrying on a comparative advertising campaign since October 2011.

It claims, between October 2011 and 2012, it identified three instances where Dunnes used promotional material featuring Aldi marks which, Aldi alleged, breached the relevant regulations.

Aldi had complained but not taken the matter further as it then appeared the instances of infringement were on a relatively small scale, it said.

Last June, it learned Dunnes was displaying shelf edge lables in its Newbridge store containing the marks and the words "Lower Price Guarantee" and "Always Better Value", Aldi said.

These labels conveyed the impression the Dunnes' products were either cheaper or the same price as Aldi products and that Dunnes' prices were generally cheaper when that was not the case, Aldi alleged.

Other labels compared some Dunnes products with Aldi products that were not proper comparators, it alleged. Aldi assumed similar labels were being displayed in other Dunnes' stores.

In those circumstances, solicitors for AldI wrote complaining to Dunnes on a number of occasions but Dunnes had made any attempt to explain or justify its conduct, Aldi said.

The proceedings were initiated after Aldo became aware of other banners being displayed in Dunnes' outlets relating to the "family essentials" range and featuring the words "Lower Price Guarantee".

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