Oatly Loses Trademark Suit Against Glebe Farm Foods' PureOaty Product

from the oat-brand dept

A couple of months back, we discussed something of a silly lawsuit overseas between Oatly, a large oat-milk manufacturer, and Glebe Farm Foods over its own PureOaty drink. At issue were Oatly's own trademarks and its claims that PureOaty infringed on those marks. As we noted at the time, because the word "oat" is descriptive of the products in both cases, and with PureOaty using the "pure" as a differentiator among other things, this was a trademark claim that essentially came down to the letter "y". And, yes, that is dumb. Especially when you consider that there are significant differences when it comes to PureOaty's trade dress.

There is simply little reason to be concerned about public confusion between those two products when you take everything in sum total. The colors in the branding are different, and the trade dress and placement generally doesn't lend itself towards public confusion.

And it turns out that the courts in the UK agree.

Judge Nicholas Caddick at London’s High Court dismissed claims by the Malmo-based group that Cambridgeshire-based Glebe Farm Foods, which specialises in gluten-free oats, of infringing trademarks including the Oatly brand name and pack design, and of “passing off” the beverage as Oatly.

In his ruling, the judge said the visual similarity of the names were “very modest” and that there was no evidence of actual confusion among consumers regarding the two products.

Both parties were reached for comment after the ruling. Glebe Farm Foods was understandably pleased with the result, noting that it isn't always the case that smaller entities like its company can beat large enterprises like Oatly in court, even on the merits. Oatly, for its part, claims it will not appeal the ruling and accepts it, adding that it never actually wanted to harm Glebe Farm Foods in the first place.

Oatly added that it never brought the case to damage Glebe Farm and wanted them “to thrive and help bring products into the world that are good for the planet”. “We wish Glebe Farm total success in their plant-based journey moving forward,” it said.

Kind words, but somewhat tone-deaf given that even Oatly acknowledged that this entire lawsuit was initiated essentially over the letter "y". That this single character resulted in a lawsuit of all things doesn't lend a lot of credence to Oatly's "I'm okay, you're okay" posture.

Hide this

Thank you for reading this Techdirt post. With so many things competing for everyone’s attention these days, we really appreciate you giving us your time. We work hard every day to put quality content out there for our community.

Techdirt is one of the few remaining truly independent media outlets. We do not have a giant corporation behind us, and we rely heavily on our community to support us, in an age when advertisers are increasingly uninterested in sponsoring small, independent sites — especially a site like ours that is unwilling to pull punches in its reporting and analysis.

While other websites have resorted to paywalls, registration requirements, and increasingly annoying/intrusive advertising, we have always kept Techdirt open and available to anyone. But in order to continue doing so, we need your support. We offer a variety of ways for our readers to support us, from direct donations to special subscriptions and cool merchandise — and every little bit helps. Thank you.

–The Techdirt Team

Filed Under: confusion, oat milk, pureoaty, trademark, uk
Companies: glebe farm foods, oatly, pureoaty


Reader Comments

Subscribe: RSS

View by: Time | Thread


  • identicon
    yimyam, 5 Aug 2021 @ 8:21pm

    I alwys get England confused with Britain.

    And groats confused with oats, their "football" with "soccer", "cricket" with baseball, and their beer with something still warm from a horse.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Flotsam, 8 Aug 2021 @ 1:21am

      Re: I alwys get England confused with Britain.

      I've been doing this for about 30 years and I'm starting to feel like Sisyphus. One more time up that hill...

      Groats are coins. Oats are cereals.

      England is one of the four main regions that make up the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

      There are two main types of football: Association and Rugby. Soccer is short for association and rugger is the equivalent for Rugby.

      There is nothing to be confused about with regard to cricket and baseball. One is the pinnacle of sporting activity and the other is baseball.

      Proper English beer is not served warm. It is served at room temperature just as it has been for the last few thousand years across the entire planet. Beer is only served cold in shithole countries because their beer actually does taste like horse p**s at room temperature.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2021 @ 12:11am

    But isn't it actually about the letter "l"?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 6 Aug 2021 @ 12:12am

    "I'm okaY, you're okaY"

    ỞḴḀỸ ẞỞớḾꬲꭆ

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bobvious, 6 Aug 2021 @ 3:26am

    I can't wait to see

    how oatlY will react when "The Original GOATSE" releases a drink. That will really get on their goat.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That Anonymous Coward (profile), 6 Aug 2021 @ 4:14am

    "“We wish Glebe Farm total success in their plant-based journey moving forward,”"

    pulls out the decoder ring
    We still hope that what we cost them will damage their ability to compete in the market & serve as a warning to anyone else daring to enter the oat milk marketplace that clearly belongs only to us.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Tanner Andrews (profile), 6 Aug 2021 @ 5:23am

      Re:

      We still hope that what we cost them will damage their ability to compete

      Interestingly enough, England has a ``loser pays'' system. The U.S. has that for a few types of cases, too.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Discounts Code (profile), 6 Aug 2021 @ 5:08am

    Online Marketing

    UK Online Shopping Codes Discount Code and Voucher Codes
    https://www.discountscode.co.uk/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    BurningWoodchipper (profile), 6 Aug 2021 @ 5:52am

    Trade dress?

    Is it pink or blue?

    Yeah, this trademark spat was ridiculous, but you could at least use a COLOR photo of the Oatly bottle - the blue they use, and the Pure Oaty blue are a lot closer together than your photo implies.

    Yes, there are lots of other differences, but why pick a photo that's mis-representative of the facts, when the rest of the story is strong?

    https://us.oatly.com/collections/products/products/oatmilk

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2021 @ 6:45am

      Re: Trade dress?

      That is a color photo. Oatly has more than one color. Also, yeah no blue-gray is not even close to what the Oaty one looks like.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        raugturi (profile), 6 Aug 2021 @ 7:13am

        Re: Re: Trade dress?

        It's also worth noting that the gray Oatly one is their barista coffee creamer, the most direct competitor to PureOaty's product which also advertises as being best used for barista coffee. Oatly uses their blue-grey (which is very different from the blue used by PureOaty as you said) on their regular milk substitute.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2021 @ 9:36am

    Unfortunate to see this type of company engaging in these suits. Dairy and beef farmers have tried to get laws passed that restrict plant based companies from using terms like milk and burgers and have succeeded in some places. You'd have hoped the plant based companies would have come to resent these arguments that effectively hinge on arguing the customer is too stupid to tell dairy/meat product A from plant based product B, yet here they are saying they're too dumb to tell brand A from brand B entirely.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 6 Aug 2021 @ 1:34pm

    innoc essay

    because one-liners often get past the blocking

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jakob, 9 Aug 2021 @ 1:39pm

    Trademarks must be protected

    In some juristictions you must be seen to protect your trademark, or face the risk of loosing it. Without the courts ruling that the two names are in fact dissimilar, a third party with a more similar product could later use Oatly's lack response to the introduction of PureOaty to hollow out Oatly's trademark. The third party might then reason in court that despite Oatly's ownership they have failed to protect the trademark letting it fall into common use / public domain, thus allowing anyone to use names however similar for products equally similar. Oatly may well wish Glebe Farms well with their product. Afterall, in the UK the loser in court pays the winners fees, and judging by the ridiculous nature of the suit they likely had no expectation to win, and no other motive than to be seen protecting their trademark as they are required to do if they wish to keep it.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


Add Your Comment

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Close

Add A Reply

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here



Subscribe to the Techdirt Daily newsletter




Comment Options:

  • Use markdown. Use plain text.
  • Make this the First Word or Last Word. No thanks. (get credits or sign in to see balance)    
  • Remember name/email/url (set a cookie)

Follow Techdirt
Sponsored Promotion
Public Money, Public Code - Sign The Open Letter at publiccode.eu
Essential Reading
Techdirt Deals
Report this ad  |  Hide Techdirt ads
Techdirt Insider Chat
Recent Stories

This site, like most other sites on the web, uses cookies. For more information, see our privacy policy. Got it
Close

Email This

This feature is only available to registered users. Register or sign in to use it.