The latest victims of the intellectual property game are two cute caterpillars named Colin and Cuthbert, as Aldi and Marks & Spencer (M&S) go to war over the novelty cakes.
A little backstory for Australian readers: Colin the Caterpillar is a novelty chocolate roll cake which has been sold by British retailer Marks & Spencer for over 30 years. Essentially, Colin is to British childhoods as The Australian Women’s Weekly train cake is to Aussie childhoods.
The trouble started when discount grocer Aldi created their own version—also a caterpillar subtly named Cuthbert—which it stopped selling in February but revived as a limited-edition special to raise funds for Teenage Cancer Trust and Macmillan Cancer Support.
Marks & Spencer, while it says the charity idea is a good one, has lodged an intellectual property claim with the High Court, saying Aldi should come up with its own character.
The war of words has become a social media slinging match, with the rival companies making not-so-subtle digs at each other publicly.
Unveiling the idea on social media, Aldi said: “Let’s raise money for charity, not lawyers.”
M&S replied that a cake based on Aldi’s Kevin the Carrot commercials would be better, adding: “That idea’s on us… and we promise we won’t do Keith.”
M&S’ claim with the High Court claims Cuthbert’s similarity with Colin led consumers to believe they were of the same standard and “rides on the coat-tails” of M&S’s reputation.
According to Marks and Spencer, it takes 38 people to assemble each cake from start to finish, and 8.4 tonnes (8,400 kg) of sugar coating are used each year for the decorative spots.
The retailer has three trademarks relating to Colin, although several British supermarkets have their own versions, including Waitrose’s Cecil, Sainsbury’s Wiggles, Tesco’s Curly and Asda’s Clyde the Caterpillar.