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.”
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.”