- Oatly loses trademark lawsuit against PureOaty, made by Glebe Farm Food in the UK.
- PureOaty had no intention “to take advantage of the distinctive character” of Oatly, a judge said.
- “[S]maller independent companies CAN fight back and win,” said Philip Rayner, of Glebe Farm Foods.
A judge has thrown out a trademark case Oatly had brought against the maker of PureOaty, a similar milk alternative made in the UK.
“It is enormously gratifying that the judge has ruled in our favor, and to see that smaller independent companies CAN fight back and win,” said Philip Rayner, owner of Glebe Farm Foods, which makes the UK oat milk.
Oatly brought the case against Glebe, saying the branding on PureOaty’s cartons was likely to cause customer confusion. The cartons looked too similar, and the names were too close to each other, Oatly said.
Erica Wigge, Oatly’s EMEA PR manager, said the milk maker didn’t see the ruling as a win for a smaller competitor.
“For us, this case has always been about protecting our trademark and how the single letter Y creates too much of a similarity between OATY and OATLY,” Wigge told Insider via email on Friday. “If we were to let one company pass because they, like Glebe Farm, seem to be one of the good guys, that might leave the door open for the bad ones.”
The case paperwork included details about the naming of PureOaty, including internal emails showing a step-by-step process the company took in creating the name. Staffers had suggested a few variations, including “PurOaty” and “PureOat,” according to Thursday’s dismissal filing.
In one internal email, Rayner wrote of the product: “Is there a more sophisticated blue – dark sky blue or duck egg? Or the Oatly one uses a speckled color to give the illusion of a rustic rough cardboard effect.”
Nicholas Caddick, deputy high court judge, wrote in his dismissal that the mention of Oatly during those discussions didn’t amount to trademark infringement.
“Ultimately, it is in my judgment significant that the defendant’s documents, despite mentioning Oatly, show no suggestion of a wish or intention to get close to let alone to take advantage of the distinctive character or repute of the Oatly marks or brand,” Caddick wrote.
Oatly’s Wigge said the company doesn’t plan to appeal the judge’s decision, saying Oatly wished Glebe Farm “total success in their plant-based journey moving forward.”
“Truth is, we love all oat drink companies and never brought this case to damage Glebe Farm,” Wigge said. “In fact, we want them to thrive and help bring products into the world that are good for the planet. We just think they should do so in their own unique voice, just like we do. “