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DAILY BRIEFING

DAILY BRIEFING

Colin goes to court

Written by Javier Maquieira, senior associate 
Edited by Scott Reid, associate partner
16 April 2021

Good morning,

When you move to a different country, no one really tells you that adapting to a new culture is as much about learning the language, customs, and history as it is about getting to know its cake and sweet preferences.
 
After almost three years living in the UK, I’m more or less acquainted with the likes of Jaffa Cakes, Terry’s Chocolate Orange, and Sour Patch Kids. But yesterday I got to know Colin the Caterpillar – Marks and Spencer’s staple chocolate sponge roll cake. A truly national treasure, I’m told.
 
Wikipedia reveals Colin turned 30 years old last August, has been sold more than 15 millions times, and both Dame Judi Dench and Taylor Swift love him.
 
Off the back of Colin’s success, rival retailers have created their own caterpillar cakes, including Morrison’s Morris, Waitrose’s Cecil, Sainsbury’s Wiggles, Tesco’s Curly, Co-Op’s Charlie, and Asda’s Clyde.
 
But it is Aldi’s £5 Cuthbert the Caterpillar that has really got into trouble with £7 Colin.
 
M&S announced yesterday that it had lodged an intellectual property claim with the high court against Aldi, stating the design of Colin’s lookalike and its packaging infringe the product’s trademarks. The British retailer wants Cuthbert off the shelves to “protect Colin, Connie and our reputation for freshness, quality, innovation and value”.
 
According to intellectual property lawyers, if M&S is to win this case, it’ll have to prove that Colin’s appearance is so well-known, that consumers would recognise it as being an M&S product without any other cues. It’ll all come down to the high court’s decision on whether the German retailer is seeking to trigger purchasing decisions by producing an own-label product similar to its branded equivalent.
 
The battle of the caterpillars is only the latest in a long list of copycat disputes among retailers – Brewdog even made a marketing opportunity of their spat with Aldi. However, Colin’s iconicity as the go-to celebration cake of a generation makes this row a crucial one.
 
Food writer Clare Finney marked Colin’s 30th birthday last year with a piece in The Guardian in which she wondered if the sponge cake would eventually be lost to new baking fads or remain “a dependable source of solace in an uncertain world”.
 
I don’t have an answer to Finney’s question, but something tells me that sales of Colin might benefit from the court drama. Time will tell. In the meantime, I reckon my visit to the M&S Foodhall’s cake section is long overdue. The cultural journey continues.

News

The Biden administration has expelled 10 Russian diplomats and imposed broad sanctions against Russian officials and companies in retaliation against Moscow’s interference in elections and cyber-espionage campaigns. The fresh package of sanctions, which is detailed in an executive order signed by President Biden, also bars financial institutions from buying rouble bonds newly issued by Russia’s central bank or other large financial institutions. Russia has denied all the allegations and said it would respond in kind.
 
The Times has reported that the UK government is looking at updating the ministerial code and producing rules for contractors to make conflicts of interest clearer, following recent allegations of cronyism prompted by a series of high-profile cases. As part of the updates, ministers are also considering barring Whitehall consultants from taking advantage of inside knowledge and contacts by making them sign agreements before they return to the private sector. (£)
 
Buckingham Palace has announced the 30 guests who will be attending the Duke of Edinburgh’s funeral at St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle on Saturday. The guest list for the ceremony, which has had to be scaled down due to Covid-19 restrictions, includes Prince Philip’s closest relatives, barring his great-grandchildren. The palace has also revealed that the duke’s four children will walk alongside his coffin, and the funeral will see senior royals break with tradition and not wear military uniform.

Business and economy

China’s economy has experienced the biggest jump in gross domestic product (GDP) since the country began keeping quarterly records in 1992. It grew by a record 18.3% in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the same quarter last year. Yet the figures are below expectations and thought to be heavily skewed, since they are compared to last year’s huge economic contraction.
 
Jeff Bezos has told Amazon shareholders that the company needs to “do a better job” for its employees, after it defeated an attempt by some workers to form the company’s first union in Alabama. Writing in his final letter as chief executive of the online giant, Bezos added that he planned to work on making Amazon’s workhouses safer in his new role as executive chairman.
 
Citigroup is to close its consumer banking operations in 13 markets across Asia, eastern Europe, and the Middle East in a move to cut costs in its retail network soon after Jane Fraser took over as chief executive. The US banking group, which will continue to offer products to larger clients and institutions in these markets, will instead run these operations from four hubs in Singapore, Hong Kong, the United Arab Emirates, and London. (£)

Columns of note

In The Times, Mary Robinson advocates for a temporary waiver on Covid-19 vaccine patents to help end the pandemic, arguing that our current limits on vaccine production are artificial and vaccine donations to developing countries, insufficient. Robinson uses her piece to call on western countries to recognise the risk that failing to vaccinate the world’s population poses on successful inoculation programmes in countries like the UK.
 
Aditya Chakrabortty criticises the UK government’s latest report on race in The Guardian with a focus on its “shaky data”, which he sees as being “littered with mistakes and outright mangling of sources”. Chakrabortty’s piece looks at various examples of distorted facts and shoddiness to conclude that the evidence in Tony Sewell’s report has been retrofitted to inspire outrage.

Cartoon source: The Telegraph

Markets

What happened yesterday?

London stocks closed higher on Thursday, supported by solid gains in the mining sector. The FTSE 100 ended the session up 0.63% at 6,983.50, while sterling was stronger both against the dollar by 0.01% at $1.38 and versus the euro by 0.12% at €1.15.
 
Across the Atlantic, progress on recovery pushed US stocks higher, with the S&P 500 rising 1.1% to a new high and the tech-focused Nasdaq Composite gaining 1.3%.
 
In company news:
 
Ladbrokes owner Entain gained 1.09% after the sports betting and gambling company said momentum continued into 2021 as it experienced a strong first quarter of online trading.
 
Wizz Air managed to close 0.84% higher after the low-cost airline said it expected a full-year loss of up to €590m and a “gradual” traffic recovery into late summer.
 
Deliveroo traded 3.77% lower after the online food delivery company left its full-year guidance unchanged and reported a more-than-doubling of orders in the first quarter.

What’s happening today?

AGMs
Leedsbuild.pibs

Int. economic announcements
(10:00) Balance of Trade (EU)
(10:00) Consumer Price Index (EU)
(13:30) Housing Starts (US)
(13:30) Building Permits (US)
(15:00) U. of Michigan Confidence (Prelim) (US)

Source: Financial Times

did you know

The odds of your being alive are one in 10^2,685,000 (10 followed by 2,685,000 zeroes), which is basically zero, according to Dr Ali Binazir. (source: @8fact)

Parliamentary highlights

House of Commons

The House will next sit on 19 April

House of Lords 

Legislation
Prisons (Substance Testing) Bill – second reading
 
Botulinum Toxin and Cosmetic Fillers (Children) Bill – second reading
 
Animal Welfare (Sentencing) Bill – second reading
 
Education (Guidance about Costs of School Uniforms) Bill – committee stage

Scottish Parliament 

The Scottish parliament is in recess ahead of the election on 6 May

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