A family-run farm has won a legal battle against the multimillion-pound makers of plant milk, Oatly, which accused it of trademark infringement.

Oatly brought legal action against Glebe Farm Foods, in Cambridgeshire, saying their product PureOaty took “unfair advantage” of their own drink.

A High Court judge ruled in favour of the farm saying he did not see “any risk of injury to the distinctive character” of the Oatly brand.

The farm said it was “gratifying”.

Oatly was founded in the 1990s and produces a milk substitute made from oats.

The brand is endorsed by a number of celebrities including Oprah Winfrey.

During the two-day hearing in June, the court heard Oatly had sold more than £38m worth of its “barista edition” oat milk, and more than £13m of other varieties.

Glebe Farm Foods, based near Huntingdon, launched an oat milk in 2019 called “Oat Drink”, before rebranding it “PureOaty” in 2020.

Oatly’s lawyers said the farm had infringed five of their firm’s trademarks with the “PureOaty” name and the drink’s packaging, as well as “passing off” their product as Oatly’s.

Oatly sought a High Court injunction earlier this year to stop Glebe Farm Foods selling its PureOaty brand

Glebe Farm Foods, run by brother and sister Philip and Rebecca Rayner, denied the claims.

Ruling in favour of the farm, Judge Nicholas Caddick QC, said while there were similarities between the initial PureOaty packaging and the Oatly packaging, including the use of the colour blue and the use of an irregular font for the product name, these were “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’,” he said.

He concluded: “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.”

Philip and Rebecca Rayner
Philip and Rebecca Rayner said the outcome was “enormously gratifying”

Mr Rayner said his farm had “always felt certain that we have done nothing 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,” he said.

“It is enormously gratifying… to see that smaller independent companies can fight back and win.”

A spokeswoman for Oatly said the company would not be appealing the decision.

“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.”

She said Oatly wished Glebe Farm Foods “total success… moving forward”, but added: “We just think they should do so in their own unique voice, just like we do.”

Source: BBC