30 March 2022Trademarks

Waitrose and Asda clash over ‘essential’ branding

Supermarket Asda may face a trademark battle over its new Just Essentials range, following the receipt of a legal letter from rival Waitrose.

On Monday, March 28, Asda confirmed that it would be launching a new budget-friendly essentials range, ‘Just Essentials by Asda’, which will eventually replace its Smart Price range.

However, Waitrose believes that the branding is too similar to its own ‘Essential Waitrose’ range launched more than a decade ago and has written to Asda raising trademark concerns.

A Waitrose spokesperson told WIPR: “We were surprised to hear that Asda is launching an essentials range as the Essential Waitrose brand has been in use since 2009 and has built up a strong reputation for value, quality and higher welfare standards in that time.

“As we’ve also protected the name as a trademark, we have raised this with Asda and are awaiting a response.”

The ‘Essential Waitrose’ trademark was registered in September 2019 and covers classes 3, 5, 6, 16, 21, 22, 29, 30, 31, and 32.

According to a 2020 factsheet produced by Waitrose, Essential Waitrose accounts for one-quarter of all own-brand sales for the supermarket.

Asda’s Just Essentials range is expected to comprise 300 products, 50% more than the Smart Price Range. It will begin arriving in stores from May onwards.

An Asda spokesperson said: “The word 'essentials' is a generic and commonly used term by retailers to describe their value product ranges.”

If the dispute were to escalate to court, Jim Dennis, partner at Simkins, believes that "Waitrose could have a good claim if it can prove that there is significant consumer recognition in the UK of the term 'Essential' in connection with Waitrose products only”.

However, he warned, this claim is not without its difficulties.

“Among the points weighing against Waitrose are: Waitrose’s mark is 'Essential Waitrose' not 'Essential', so the marks are not the same,” said Dennis.

“Essential is not a particularly strong mark, as it’s partly descriptive. Essential is also the first element of Waitrose’s mark and the second of Asda’s, which is important, since the first element is usually considered to be dominant.”

In addition, Dennis explained that ‘essential’ is used by Waitrose “as an adjective and not a noun as used by Asda, so there is also a conceptual difference”.

The clash between Asda and Waitrose comes nearly a year after Aldi and Marks & Spencer (M&S) began their dispute over a caterpillar cake.

M&S, in a UK High Court claim, accused Aldi of infringing its ‘Colin the Caterpillar’ brand through the sale of Aldi’s ‘Cuthbert the Caterpillar’ cake. In February this year, the parties settled, with Aldi taking to social media to claim that Cuthbert would be “getting out early on good behaviour” this Spring.

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More on this story

22 May 2018   UK chocolatier Hotel Chocolat has accused supermarket Waitrose of “crossing the line” and breaching its IP rights with a new line of chocolate products.
16 April 2021   Marks & Spencer is suing German supermarket chain Aldi at the UK High Court over a cake which it says infringes its ‘Colin the Caterpillar’ brand.