Oatly has lost its trademark lawsuit against Glebe Farm Foods, the British family-run company based in Cambridge behind the oat milk brand PureOaty. The Swedish food tech giant accused the brand of a trademark infringement last year. Now, the High Court judge has ruled in favour of Glebe, which described it as a “true David and Goliath battle”.
Oatly brought legal action against Cambridgeshire’s Glebe Farm last year, alleging that the company was taking “unfair advantage” of its famous oat milk drink when it rebranded its line of “Oat Drink” to be called “PureOaty”. After a two-day court hearing in June, the High Court judge has now ruled in favour of the family-run farm, concluding that there was no “risk of injury to the distinctive character” of the Blackstone-backed and publicly traded brand.
Judge Nicholas Caddick QC noted that there were similarities between the two brands’ packaging, especially in the use of the colour blue, but said that it was only “at a very general level”.
“It is hard to see how any relevant confusion would arise from the defendant’s use of the sign ‘PureOaty’,” said the judge. “On the facts of this case, I do not see that there is any risk of injury to the distinctive character of Oatly’s marks.”
‘True David and Goliath battle’
In a social media post about the news, Glebe said: “In a complete victory, the judge has today dismissed all claims of trademark infringement levelled at our PureOaty oat milk by the multinational company Oatly.”
The company went onto say that simply “look[ing] at the two packs side by side” made it obvious how “different these brands are, and how unnecessary this expensive legal action was.”
“We want to thank everyone who have been supporting us throughout,” the statement read. “Many people have described this as a true David and Goliath battle and it is great to see that smaller independent companies can fight back and win.”
Glebe Farm is run by sibling duo Philip and Rebecca Rayner, who fought back against Oatly’s lawyers’ claims that the brand had infringed five of Oatly’s trademarks, from its packaging that is “passing off” their PureOaty product as Oatly’s.
Since the decision, Oatly has published a statement on its website, which reads: “The court case ended on June 10 and the verdict is now in. 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.
“We’ve collected the main documents of the case for you to read as it was presented to the court. The reason is because we believe in transparency and we want you to be able to form your own opinion about the case.”
The food tech giant did not comment further, simply providing documents related to the judgment and the arguments made by both parties.
Lead image courtesy of Glebe Farm Foods.