Clash of the caterpillars: M&S sues Aldi over Colin the Caterpillar cake trademark

Imogen Wethered
by Imogen Wethered

It was in 1990 when M&S first created its Colin the Caterpillar cake – three decades on it has become a British staple for kids birthday parties, and somewhat strangely, the go-to for office birthday celebrations (back when we were still allowed to have them).

But the supermarket industry is notoriously competitive, and over the years most major supermarket chains have copycatted Colin the Caterpillar with similar alternatives.

Marks and Spencer’s Colin the Caterpillar cake.

Aldi has its Cuthbert the Caterpillar, Tesco has Curly the Caterpillar, Sainsbury’s has Wiggles the Caterpillar, Asda has Clyde the Caterpillar and Morrisons has the least inventive name out of the bunch, Morris the Caterpillar.

Wiggles the Caterpillar (top left), Curly the Caterpillar (top middle), Morris the Caterpillar (top right), Clyde the Caterpillar (bottom left), Cuthbert the Caterpillar (bottom right).

However, this week Marks & Spencer announced it had begun legal action against Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar, leading some to ask the question…”Why Cuthbert?”

Why is M&S suing Aldi?

High street retailer and supermarket chain, Marks and Spencer, is claiming Aldi’s Cuthbert the Caterpillar cake infringes on its Colin the Caterpillar trademark, mainly for its similar appearance which leads customers to believe it is the same standard as Colin the Caterpillar and “rides on the coat-tails” of M&S’s reputation.

M&S is demanding that the discount retailer remove the Cuthbert the Caterpillar product from its stores and not sell a similar version in the future.

A spokesman for M&S said: “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.”

The caterpillar characteristics are clear

A hard, chocolatey shell. A white, grinning face. A trail of colourful sprinkles down its back. The similarities are all too convincing.

When looking at the two cakes, it’s obvious that Aldi’s caterpillar cake is a cheaper version of Colin the Caterpillar, and judging by the results of a LinkedIn poll I’m running, I’m not the only one who thinks this.

But as Mark Caddle, a partner at the intellectual property firm, Withers & Rogers, told the Guardian’s Zoe Wood:

“The high court’s decision will rest on whether it thinks Aldi is seeking to benefit commercially by bringing a confusingly similar product to market.”

Interestingly Aldi hasn’t stocked the cake since February, 2021, hinting that the supermarket has already admitted defeat.

Clashing caterpillar cake opinions take Twitter by storm

To make matters more amusing, many people have gone to Twitter to share their thoughts on the matter:

 

Including Aldi, who have launched a new campaign… #FreeCuthbert

Judge Rinder is team #FreeCuthbert

Judge Rinder shared his opinion with BBC News:

“On the brink of global catastrophe, this is the critical legal question of our time,” he joked.

“This is a tough one, and I’m for let there be caterpillars everywhere. M&S should be confident in the standard of its cakes. There are other cakes out there that look like caterpillars. To that extend, I doubt there’s going to be much confusion, and therefore, I’m afraid, I’m for Cuthbert.”

Whatever way the legal proceedings sway, the PR benefits all supermarkets will gain from this lawsuit will be worth it in the long run, as caterpillar cakes will surely be in high demand over the summer months ahead.

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