Skip to main content
Menu

Ethical business   |   Plant-based

Oatly loses case against British oat milk producer

Swedish oat milk brand Oatly has lost its trademark infringement case against Cambridgeshire farm and oat milk producer Glebe Farm after a judge dismissed all claims.

The court hearing, on 9-10 June 2021, examined five claims of trademark infringement including choice of language and typefaces, the use of the colour blue and the detail of a coffee cup appearing on the PureOaty pack.

The judge said there is “relatively low or, at best, very modest level of similarity” between the two brands, assessed through the eyes of an average consumer according to court documents, and noted that the lack of evidence that any consumer confusion had taken place.

The case had gained online and consumer attention as a ‘David and Goliath’ style battle in oat milk branding, with over 130,000 consumers signing a petition on change.org in support of Glebe Farm.

“We have had the threat of this court case - which has pitched our challenger brand against Oatly’s multinational business - looming over us for more than a year,” said owner and managing director of Glebe Farm, Phillip Rayner. “We have always felt certain that we have done nothing wrong, and we were determined to fight Oatly’s claims that our brands were similar - something that is now proven to be wrong.

“You only need to look at the two products and packaging side by side to appreciate how different these brands are, and how unnecessary this legal action was.”

Oatly
Oatly has lost its case against the producer of PureOaty for trademark infringement. 

It comes as the oat milk market booms, with sales more than doubling between 2018 and 2019 to £74 million. While demand skyrockets, supply of oats is likely to become sought after and British farmers are starting to see the potential.

As reported by Wicked Leeks recently, a new Association of Independent Oat Milk Producers has been established in Scotland to help micro brands set up. Meanwhile Oatly is due to set up its first UK processing facility in England in 2023, where Glebe Farm is likely to be seen as its biggest competitor, as it produces and processes its own oat milk (rather than using a contractor).

In a statement on its website, where it also posted all documents relating to the case, Oatly said: “The court ruled in favour of Glebe Farm, the judge recognized Oatly’s strong brand and uniqueness but felt the similarities weren’t enough to rule in our favour.”

Rayner added: “There is room in a growing category for alternatives. We’d like to think growth opportunities come from positivity in broadening sector choice, rather than from trying to shut things down and limiting consumer options.”

    Comments

    Walrus

    3 Months 3 Weeks

    Well done all round - both to Glebe Farm for having the bravery to take on a "giant" in the industry and well done to a sensible judge who realising the problems has given the smaller but "local" company the chance to proceed with the production of what is both a new and it would seem a needed commodity - a replacement for dairy milk. there is I'm sure enough room for both (and a few more as well) firms in this - now lets get on with producing the Oat Milk that is needed and desired by many. What a pity that my initial attempts with the stuff is not to my liking even though I love oats - nearly as much as I love bananas and coconuts!

    the Walrus

    1 Reply

    view replies

    Jeanne

    3 Months 3 Weeks

    Agreed, on the win, and the room in the market. Hint/tip: oat cream in tea, gives a far more pleasing result than mylk - which can often be too thin for my liking.

    0 Reply

    Robert John

    3 Months 3 Weeks

    Looks like this is what happens when you accept investment from US Private Equity.
    We've adapted to oat milk - just make sure you buy the barista version.
    Funnily enough, it's especially good to make porridge. Now I just want Scotts to make oat milk!

    0 Reply

    Rombo

    3 Months 3 Weeks

    Has anybody noticed how watery Oatly has become? Always used to buy the original Oatly, but now compared to other oat milks it looks like they are watering it down. It's the colour of dirty water. Barista is okay but contains other ingredients. Looking forward to trying Pure Oaty, if we can find it for sale, otherwise shall stick to Provamel - at least it's white. Sad that Oatly took this court action Typical bully action which thankfully hasn't paid off.

    0 Reply

    dc

    3 Months 3 Weeks

    We have bought a lot of Oatly in the past and have been impressed with their amusing style but after the ridiculously unfair case against Glebe, where it seems they revealed their true colours as a multinational intent on getting rid of smaller businesses, we will be switching brands and never again returning. Thank goodness the case was thrown out. I am afraid that the claim of being open by publishing all the documents does not wash, it just looks like another ploy to curry favour. Riverford alternative is good, if a little expensive.

    0 Reply

    pictonic

    3 Months 3 Weeks

    Useful publicity for Glebe but negative for Oatly!

    0 Reply

    Judith Knight

    3 Months 3 Weeks

    I used to buy some of the other Oatly products - including a kind of crème fraiche (which is actually rather delicious), but I have decided not to buy any of these bullies' products again., and told them so. The oat drink supplied by Riverford is very good and actually come in a real glass returnable and re-fillable bottle. I believe Oatly is now owned by some international Big Business and is not the small Swedish company that it started out.

    0 Reply

    oldfart

    3 Months 3 Weeks

    Oatly what can you say? Just say no.

    0 Reply

    Wicked Leeks issue 8

    Wicked Leeks issue 8 is out now

    Featuring a cover interview with Patagonia, the latest news from COP26, and living for a new era. Plus meet the farm of the future, how to eat to protect biodiversity and seasonal eating in autumn.

    Read more

    Ethical organic veg boxes

    Riverford Organic Farmers, leading the Veg Revolution since 1986.

    Shop Riverford

    Guy's news...

    Founder of Riverford Guy Singh-Watson writes a weekly column with news from the farm and more...

    Read more
    Spread the word

    The twin crises of climate change and biodiversity losses will be the defining stories of our future, but it is not too late to change direction. 

    Here at Wicked Leeks, our mission is to help inform and inspire positive change. Our journalism is free to all because of this, but we want to reach as many people as possible who share our desire for a better world. We know our readers are some of the biggest advocates of sustainable living, and you can help us grow this movement by sharing this article widely, with your friends and on social media. Now is the time to act.