Glebe Farm Foods, a British family-run business, has this week triumphed in a case brought against it by Oatly, the Swedish oat drink company.

Glebe Farm, which is based in Cambridgeshire, was recently taken to court by Oatly in a matter relating to the name and branding of its PureOaty oat drink, which Oatly claimed was too similar to its own brand.

However, this week, the judge has dismissed Oatly's claims of infringement of registered trademarks and for passing off.

Philip Rayner, who co-owns Glebe Farm with his sister Rebecca, responded to the verdict, saying he is "delighted".

“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," Philip said.

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."

'Fight back and win'

Philip said that it is "enormously gratifying" that the judge has ruled in Glebe Farm's favour, "and to see that smaller independent companies can fight back and win".

“The facts are that we have never wanted to be an Oatly clone. Pride in our own product aside, as British farmers, we do not agree with any brand that comes across as anti-farming in its approach," he said.

Our brand name is PureOaty because our oat milk is made from pure gluten-free oats and just three other ingredients."

The court hearing occurred on June 9 and 10 and examined wide-ranging aspects "including choice of language and typefaces, the use of the colour blue and the detail of a coffee cup appearing on the PureOaty pack".

"Ultimately, the judge found that there is no likelihood of confusion between the PureOaty name and look of the carton, and any of the Oatly trademarks."

Philip added that 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," he said.

"All of us at Glebe Farm are excited to put this matter behind us now so we can focus our time on serving our loyal customers and the British public with pure, sustainable oats and oat milk without corporate lawsuits distracting from our day-to-day priorities."

Oatly does not intend to appeal

In a statement to Agriland, Oatly said that it does not intend to appeal the decision.

Oatly's PR manager for Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), Erica Wigge explained:

"While to some, this might be seen as vindication for small oat drink companies over big oat drink companies, we actually never saw it that way.

“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.

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.

"Truth is, we love all oat drink companies and never brought this case to damage Glebe Farm.

"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.

“And while we would have preferred a different result, we fully accept the court’s decision and will not make an appeal. We wish Glebe Farm total success in their plant-based journey moving forward.”