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ALDI Continues to Ride Rough Shod in ACID Member Triclimb David and Goliath IP Battle

The Triclimb design was created in 2017 by Anti Copying in Design member Christine Dunsford, read the fascinating story about how it was created is here. The design is unlike any previously registered design – it lacks a bracing triangle, and its self-supporting joint and outrigger feet allow a modern, slimline design that still surpasses EU safety standards and folds away neatly.

Since 2017, when Triclimb Ltd was created, the Triclimb is now the best-selling Pikler triangle in the UK. Triclimb now have a range of products and sell to retailers throughout the EU and beyond.

On 23rd September 2021, alarm bells started to ring when a Triclimb customer sent a message to Triclimb with a photo of the latest Aldi Specialbuy catalogue. The customer had noticed that there was a product in the catalogue that not only bore a striking resemblance to the Triclimb frame but was being advertised as a “Wooden Tri-climb.” The Triclimb trademark (UK 000032870330 and design registrations are owned by Triclimb and its founders).

https://leaflets.aldi.co.uk/view/953714931/19/

Investigation later failed to find an instance of Aldi selling such a product previously in any other market. It was discovered that Aldi had, the previous week, put a Pikler Triangle on sale in Germany. This triangle was of a different design that looked more like the products on sale prior to the design of the Triclimb.

Triclimb Original
Triclimb Original
Aldi Tri-Climb
Aldi Tri-Climb

In response to what it considered a blatant IP infringement (registered trade mark and registered design), Triclimb took the following actions: 

  • Triclimb director Pete Barton contacted Aldi directly to request an email address for legal correspondence. He spoke to a customer service representative and explained the situation. The Aldi staff member denied that their product constituted a trademark infringement, because their product name contained a hyphen (Tri-climb). Aldi refused to give contact details of their legal department and Pete was told to send his C&D via post to head office.
  • A Cease &Desist letter was sent to Aldi on 23rd September by their lawyers.
  • Triclimb contacted ACID to report the infringement.
  • On 24th September, Triclimb posted publicly on social media channels, tagging various Welsh news outlets, expressing its disappointment that Aldi had copied not only its design but its name too:

https://twitter.com/tri_climb/status/1441329183829811210?lang=en-GB

  • There was a considerable social media reaction, and the story was picked up by a few national Welsh news outlets.
  • At just before 7pm on the same day, Aldi responded on the Twitter thread:
  • “On this occasion, we have decided this product will not go on sale as planned and apologise for any inconvenience this has caused. We always listen to feedback and would be pleased to meet with Triclimb.”

The news that the product would not go on sale caused a considerable backlash for Triclimb from potential Aldi customers who were angry that they would not be able to purchase Aldi’s product.

After the product was temporarily withdrawn from sale, Pete and Jolene spoke to Aldi in a phone call. This was followed by several expensive “Without Prejudice” letters back and forth to try and reach an amicable settlement.

This was followed by several expensive “without Prejudice” letters back and forth to try and reach an amicable settlement. Unfortunately Aldi repeatedly denied they had violated Triclimb’s intellectual property rights and never offered any serious terms by way of settlement or compromise.

Triclimb wrote a WP letter rejecting Aldi’s terms and re-stating their position on 9th November. Aldi never replied to this letter, and on 26th November, without any further communication, the product went on sale on Aldi’s website. The Tri-climb name was not featured on the product itself or the website.

Customers who bought the Aldi product reported that the unit did not fold. The inclusion of a similar, round top joint to their UK product which was not included on the German product did not appear to be in an effort to offer a folding triangle to the UK market.

Aldi did write again to Triclimb on 1st December. Their letter was simply a “courtesy” to let Triclimb know that the product had gone on sale. Triclimb have little option but to make the public aware that they will be purchasing a product that has the protection of a registered design and a registered trade mark.

Dids Macdonald, OBE., CEO of ACID said, “Expensive legal ping pong legal letters are typical of many major retailers about whom ACID has become aware, quite simply stonewall legal challenge and perpetuate litigation because not only do they have deep legal pockets, but they have the purchasing power to have cheaper versions made in China. Who wants to buy from China now anyway when buying British must to be our way forward? 

I have written to Aldi’s Buying Director (here) and would like to take up their offer made on twitter “to meet with Triclimb”. For small, design-led companies this type of lookalike issue and blatant IP infringement are almost impossible to deal with when pitted against retail behemoths, most of all I hope we can negotiate some sort of licence deal and compensation that will reward Triclimb for the design and innovation in their registered design, protected by a UK trade mark. 

Aldi and consumers who buy the Aldi product, should be aware that if it is proved that this was an intentional infringement of a registered design it is now a crime and punishable by between 2 and 10 years in prison. Individual directors may also be liable under the IP Act of 2014 spearheaded by ACID in 2011.”

Triclimb design registrations found here:

UK – 2017

https://www.tmdn.org/tmdsview-web/welcome#/dsview/detail/GB702017006023201-0001

EU – 2018

https://www.tmdn.org/tmdsview-web/welcome#/dsview/detail/EM700000005841822-0001

Trade Mark registrations here

https://trademarks.ipo.gov.uk/ipo-tmcase/page/Results/1/UK00003297033?fbclid=IwAR0dICvXWw0GrF2DeKlnA3ju_TK-6KMyn3x3zvTGn8x3_UKBiVUq6aVr7QU

Triclimb Social Media here

www.triclimb.co.uk

https://www.instagram.com/tri_climb/

https://www.instagram.com/triclimb_designer/

https://twitter.com/Tri_Climb

https://twitter.com/TriclimbDesign