Trade Marks

Rebranding: how ALDI does it and what we can learn from it

Max Steinhausen

German grocery chain ALDI has approximately 10,000 stores in 18 countries with an estimated combined turnover of more 70 Billion Dollars. The successful company started as “Karl Albrecht Lebensmittel” (eng. “Karl Albrecht Groceries”) in 1948 and has since updated its well-known brand and logo every 10 years. The last logo introduced in 2006 looked outdated and was in desperate need of rebranding.

The tricky part with updating well-known brands and logos is to update the mark’s appearance to today’s visual expectations whilst maintaining the degree of familiarity to the best extent possible. ALDI has mastered this principle once again with the introduction of its latest 2017 logo, compared to that from 2006.

The new logo has received a crisp and fresh new look while maintaining its overall appearance with the stylized bright blue letter “A” and the white “ALDI” letters against the dark-blue background with its yellow, orange and red frame. The new logo looks modern yet familiar – a perfect example of a successful logo modernisation.

The new ALDI logo will be implemented globally this year in view of promoting a more contemporary image for the chain.

Rebranding is an important but challenging time for any business. The process is not risk-free and upstream legal preparation can spare you from later hassles down the track.

Here’s what you should be aware of:

Search for conflicting existing trade marks

Before you start rebranding and investing considerable financial sums in order to promote your new brand you should always make sure that the new name and/or logo you have chosen is not similar to another. Conflicting existing trade marks, be they identical or similar, may prevent you from registering your new name or logo and can lead your competitor to bring proceedings against you for trade mark infringement. This can cause significant legal and financial exposure and force you to rebrand, again.

Clearance searches should also extend to domain names and social media handles, as prior legitimate use of such may constitute a valid claim against your new trade mark.

Think big, think global

If you operate a cross-border business it is important to ascertain the availability of your new brand globally and to conduct searches on the relevant national trade mark databases. This will allow you to avoid the nasty surprise of discovering that the new brand you have chosen to promote is not available in a particular targeted market. Use of different trade marks at a global scale would potentially weaken the reputation of your business and the strength of your brand.

Apply for a new registration

The Trade Mark Act 1995 allows to use a registered trade mark with “additions or alterations that do not substantially affect the identity of the trade mark“. Thus, if your rebranding consists of minor alterations to your trade mark you might not have to register a new trade mark.

However, whether or not additions or alterations “substantially” affect the trade mark is a very subjective test and it is import to keep in mind that multiple minor modifications might have a cumulative effect and that even relatively unsubstantial modifications, when operated in series, can result in a new brand being completely different from the initially registered trade mark.

The consequences of an incorrect use can be disastrous as the Registrar or a Court could rule that the use of the new trade mark does not constitute use of the registered trade mark potentially leading to cancellation of your trade mark.

When rebranding, don’t forget copyrights

If your new trade mark contains graphic elements, such as the new ALDI logo, it will usually be covered by both trade mark rights and copyrights. Many businesses will use external graphic designers or consultancies in the process of their rebranding. Securing copyright in the new logo is critical, as if it is not specifically agreed in writing, copyrights will remain in the hand of the creator of the specific design.

Rebranding can be a great opportunity for a business to grow and/or maintain its place in the market, but the process can be tricky and carries many pitfalls.

Working with a professional intellectual property law firm can help you to successfully overcome this crucial step.

Contact our IP Consultants if you would like us to help you develop a tailored national or global rebranding strategy.

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I've been working with Max and the team for a number of years now. They have helped me with multiple trade marks, objections/challenges and advice around the technicalities of the law. I would highly recommend talking to them if you're looking for great customer service, advice and results!

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