Asda IP dispute hits delay due to Pinsents' Xmas shelf-stacking duties

A High Court dispute involving Specsavers and Asda has been delayed in part due to the requirement that lawyers from Pinsent Masons – the supermarket’s main adviser – are available to stack shelves at the supermarket during the Christmas period.

The dispute began when Specsavers accused Asda of infringing on its trademarks with an online advertising campaign which used the slogan “Be a real spec saver at Asda”. The first round closed yesterday (3 November), with the next trial date originally set for January.

However, the date has now been delayed until April after Asda’s counsel, Hugh Cuddigan of 11 South Square, in an unusual move argued that Pinsents lawyers would need extra time to prepare for the case due to the firm’s agreement to provide the supermarket with staff to stack shelves over Christmas.

The ‘partnership charter’ agreement between Asda and its panel firms states that associates working on the account will only be able to do so following a mandatory secondment to the supermarket giant and that they will have to work in an Asda store over Christmas for three days, for free.

As Legal Week reported in October, Pinsents was one of three firms to land a spot on Asda’s recently-reviewed legal panel, alongside McGrigors and Ward Hadaway.

Asda’s counsel also argued a later trial date was necessary to allow the supermarket to conduct a survey of its customers to determine if they had been misled by the advertising.

On the trademark dispute, Specsavers is being advised by Eversheds with a team led by intellectual property (IP) disputes chief Antony Gold. Michael Bloch QC of Wilberforce Chambers and 8 New Square’s Adrian Speck have been instructed as counsel.

Pinsents IP partner Catrin Turner is leading the firm’s team advising Asda.

Specsavers marketing director Richard Holmes said: “We are very pleased that Asda has now agreed in court to remove any reference to being a ‘spec saver’ from any of their advertising as soon as possible and that the judge has ordered that an expedited trial should take place in April.”

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