There’s a huge legal battle going on in the UK retail world at the moment. Marks & Spencer, that bastion of British High Street shopping (that’s Main Street to Americans) has filed a lawsuit against big-box supermarket Aldi for allegedly ripping off its iconic Colin the Caterpillar cake. Not only are they ticked off that Aldi is copying their 30-year-old cake design, but M&S is accusing Aldi of riding on the coat-tails of their superior quality products.
An M&S spokesperson told the BBC –
“Because we know the M&S brand is special to our customers and they expect only the very best from us, love and care goes into every M&S product on our shelves. So we want to protect Colin, Connie and our reputation for freshness, quality, innovation and value.”
Photo: Marks & Spencer website
Interestingly, there are several chain supermarkets who have their own version of the caterpillar cake – Waitrose’s Cecil, Sainsbury’s Wiggles, Tesco’s Curly, and Asda’s Clyde the Caterpillar. It begs the question of why they are targeting Aldi in particular and this Guardian article has a few tongue in cheek suggestions on the matter.
As someone who’s been copied a few times, including a book title, (which I know can’t be copyrighted, but boy is it irritating when it happens), you’d think I’d be on the side of Marks and Sparks. But no, while I’m not taking sides per se, I can’t help but lean towards the Cuthbert camp. Not a very well-known name and one usually associated with old men and rhubarb growing, but it was my granddad’s name, (and yes, he did have a rhubarb patch).
I remember when my American husband first heard the name, he thought it might have been made up. (Which, when you see some of the names in his ancestry tree, is pretty rich!) Colins, Ians, Trevors, and Malcolms were ten-a-penny when he first set foot in the UK, but Cuthbert? It wasn’t until I took him to my homeland and he saw all the St. Cuthbert’s churches, that I think he really believed it was a bona fide name. (North East of England, since you’re asking.) St. Cuthbert, along with St. Aidan and St. Bede are the stars of Northumbrian history and legend.
I was well ahead of the trend when I called my first son Aidan, don’tcha know; so unknown was it outside of the NE of England that the hospital spelled it incorrectly many times, and his birth announcements came back as “Adian”. Then along came Sex & The City, and now there are younger Aidans in their thousands. (Can you tell it still rankles?)
It’ll be interesting to see how the caterpillar cake case develops. (Try saying that with a mouth full of peanut butter.) Will Aldi crawl off quietly or will the courts have to get heavy-handed? Judging by their Tweets, it doesn’t look like Aldi’s shaking in its corporate cocoon though. Whatever your take on this retail wrestling match, you have to admit that some of them are hilarious.
First, there’s the hashtag #FreeCuthbert, possibly one of the greatest marketing responses of all time. (If you go down this social media rabbit hole I take no blame for the time lost, by the way.) People are clearly spending hours putting together elaborate memes and TikTok videos on the matter.
Then there are the terrible puns – “I’m Colin my lawyer”, for one. And the rather brilliant graphics –
They may have gone a little too far with this one though. I mean isn’t this just going to rile up the M&S legal team?
Anyway, I will be watching the procedures closely, as I’m sure will the other half a dozen supermarket chains who could also be said to be ripping off Marks and Sparks.