The Glebe Farm court case

Yeah so, long story short: we went to court and lost. The longer version is that it was this infringement case where we thought a company called Glebe Farm was too close to OATLY when they called their oat drink OATY. They, on the other hand, did not think this was the case, so we found ourselves in a disagreement that needed to be solved by a third and neutral party. We decided to use the best neutral party available, the judge and other prominent staff of the IPEC court.

 

Some people thought this was petty of us, in a big business sort of way, to try to protect our name and the likeness of it. For us it had nothing to do with pettiness, size or even business for that matter. It was a bit more personal than that. You see, back in the 90-ies when we invented Oat drink it was hard to get anyone interested in it. But we knew we had the drink of the future and worked hard for 20 years to get people to see what we saw. Since then, our movement has grown exponentially, like it must in order to be a success. Community and collaboration are the most important parts of that growth and will forever be the Oatly way of doing things. Having enemies isn’t really our thing and we wouldn’t dream of trying to stop another plant-based producer from helping our movement grow. But we have also learned through the years that some like to take advantage of the success we have worked so hard for and we realised early that we need to protect what we love and care about. Like all healthy relationships, boundaries need to be set and respected.

 

And that’s what this case was for us, protecting what we love and the tools we employ to further the plant-based movement. We believe uniqueness and creativity are tools that everyone interested in doing the same should use. The judge in the case recognised Oatly’s strong brand and uniqueness but felt the similarities weren’t enough to rule in our favour. We can live with that and accept the verdict, there will be no appeal. All we ever wanted was for someone to settle our little dispute so, mission accomplished. We appreciate all the discussions we’ve had with people on social media and on this forum. We believe that all experiences make us grow as individuals and as a company, and this has certainly been an experience. We hope Glebe Farm feel the same way as we wish them all the best in the future.

Comments

  • I still find it incredible that you ever thought there was an issue; I cant see how any rational well-intentioned person could ever have thought there was anything to have a dispute over. The name of their product is, as has been pointed out more than once, PureOaty (note - all one word) not "Oaty" as you keep claiming. Obviously I can't know how genuine you are in what you've said about all this, but assuming that you are genuine, I'd urge you to think very, VERY carefully before ever going legal with this sort of thing again, as instigating a frivolous court case against  another company - which is still what this appears to be to me - is the quickest way to tarnish a company's reputation.
    Esme
  • >>>Yeah so, long story short: we went to court and lost.

    Yes. Oatly obviously had no case. PureOaty's name and packaging is not like Oatly's.

    >>>The longer version is that it was this infringement case where we thought a company called Glebe Farm was too close to OATLY when they called their oat drink OATY.

    Stop it. They called their oat drink "PureOaty", not the adjective "OATY". You also said the packaging was too close, when it blatantly wasn't.

    >>>It was a bit more personal than that.

    You're trying to muddy the waters here. Whether you were the first humans in history to mix oats and water is not relevant. The products are obviously not similar. We'd be more sympathetic if they were.

    >>>Having enemies isn’t really our thing and we wouldn’t dream of trying to stop another plant-based producer from helping our movement grow.

    Just behave then. Your current behaviour makes a lot of us wonder if 'our movement' even includes Oatly.

    >>>We believe that all experiences make us grow as individuals and as a company

    Splendid. Now stop patronising everyone. Have you checked how many of your customers, current and former (I'm in the latter), think you had a case? Read the room!


    Dave
  • Joe,

    Your post doesn't do you any favours. You could have just admitted you were wrong and should never been the bully or gone to court.

    I have moved over the last few months from being a potential investor and being really positive about what you were doing, to concern about your approach to Glebe Farm, to now, seeing what you have written, realising that your "green" credentials are simply a veneer. If you could have wiped out Glebe you would have been happy to do so. My position is now to avoid in every sense. Glebe on the other hand, now that I know more about them, they will definitely be getting my business - and probably more.
    Martin
  • I used to be an Oatly supporter, but this ill-judged stunt left a very bad taste.

    What Oatly says is all about inclusivity and growing the plant-based movement together, but their actions show a paranoid knee-jerk reaction driven by self-interest.

    What made it worse and continues to do so is Oatly's communications on this. They paint a picture of pure, selfless intentions, explained as if the audience was stupid (I'm sure this is not Oatly's intention, but this is how it comes across - patronising). Talking about setting boundaries, healthy relationships, protecting what you love - we all agree with these things, but do not see how this has anything to do with the irrational actions Oatly took.

    Why didn't Oatly listen to the huge number of their own customers telling them the branding was not alike and their action ill-judged?

    I get that Oatly, like many other actors in this space, have worked hard for a long time. I believe we all applaud and thank Oatly that. But people are not buying that this legal action was necessary to preserve Oatly's integrity. These kinds of actions make you look weak and scared, and not the optimistic, confident and resilient trailblazer we used to see Oatly as.

    I hope Oatly's leadership challenges themselves to consider deeply what clouded their judgement and ultimately drove the action they took.
    Sini
  • I found the fact that Oatly felt the need to try and sue a small business into oblivion utterly toxic. I will never buy your products again and bearing in mind that I introduced my contacts in many coffee businesses and deli's to "Barista Oatly" I will be advising them to move off your brand as this type of behaviour is not acceptable.
    Let's not dig too deep into your "green" credentials either.
    Gareth.
  • Taking what is said here at face value is even worse, as this post acknowledges the case was essentially over the letter Y.  There was no case to be made for trade dress, and  this together with the word Pure  as the differentiator, creates little if any confusion on behalf of consumers.

    Russ
  • Hello good people of this angry comments section, I hate to treat you as a group when you are in fact all individuals who just happened to have a negative reaction to what Joe published and used the provided response function to express it independent of each other. But that’s the system we’re working with here, and I could spend time in trying to change that system or I could focus on what’s important to me, and that’s responding to all of you. So, while this is a group response, I’ll try to address all individual concerns in it, and if your comment was more of the feedback kind, rest assured that it has been forwarded although maybe not word by word. We give more of an “this month average sentiment” feedback of this issue to the rest of the company at this point.

    You’ve all heard this before and was tired of it the first time we said it but, we did what we did because we felt that we had to in order to protect what we have built. It wasn’t about Glebe farm for us, but if we let one pass then that becomes a predecessor for other companies to follow. Hey! I felt that eye-roll, but it’s true. For us it was important to get a neutral party’s perspective on it, i.e. the court, even if we lost. We get that you don’t like this. We also get that our inclination to play the game of business differently than other companies when it comes to sustainability and communication made you expect it of us in this case as well. But that’s the system we’re working in here and we could try to change it or we could focus on what’s important to us: changing a broken food industry.

    So, would we do it again even after all this, knowing what we know today? Well, yes. We still feel that we did what we had to do to protect our work. Infringement and Trademark disagreements happen every day in the world where both we and Glebe Farm play. One way to settle such disagreements are through a neutral court and that’s what we did. And even in losing, it worked out fine for us and from what we can see it worked out pretty good for Glebe Farm as well. You might not like what we did but it’s the system we work within and if we focus on what seems to be important for you: the system works.
    Mårten
  • Not buying your response. Had Glebe Farm's product name or their packagng actually been confusingly similar to yours, then yes, having a word with Glebe Farm about it would have been in order, as would going to court if they didnt agree to adjust their product appropriately to remove confusion. We understand trademark law, and that in cases where there is infringment, if the trademark holder doesnt defend their trademark, they can lose their right to it as a trademark. We absolutely understand that, and have no wish for you to lose yours.

    But there never was any chance of confusion in consumers minds There never was any need to even have a friendly word with Glebe Farm, let alone go to a court case. To assert otherwise is, frankly, ludicrous. For these reasons, you explanations have not been convincing, and hence your action is widely regarded as having been completely unnecessary What has made it worse is that you persist in denying the obvious fact that there WASN'T a need for the action, and you have not had the courage or courtesy to admit your mistake.

    I am now dropping out of these forums, as I have no wish to waste any further time on the matter given your unrepentant attitude.
    Esme
  • Nope, it doesn't really matter what you say, Oatly is done.

    You have got too big for your boots and this is exactly what happens time and time again, when a cool little business loses it's ethics and goes global.

    If, as a global mega business you feel the need to sue any company that you think is a threat, then you really haven't got much of a product at all.

    Good products sell themselves, Oatly has sold itself out.
    Gareth.
  • Hey, we're not trying to win you over on our side, just share it. If you don't agree, that's cool like mist on a summer’s morning. We're the same company we've always been and will never sell-out unless you're talking about our products on the shelf of your favourite grocery store in which case, we confess. We act in the same way we always have, our focus is a more sustainable and plant-based world like always and we are honest in our views even when they don't happen to be the most popular one's like now, like always.

    Here are all the main documents from the case so that anyone interested don't have to care about what we or anyone else say about it. You can make up your own mind!
    Mårten
  • I've been saddened by this whole episode. I am not a veggie, but I know we have to do better to protect our future. I had a very positive view of Oatly because I felt they were making a contribution.

    What I have now discovered is that they are more focused on their own profits than on moving the whole food industry forward. This is a negative image, and it's a BIG negative.

    From what I have seen Oatly are definitely not the same company. They are now majority owned by a Chinese Company. That is not inherently bad, but I suspect they are calling the tune. Certainly the distain with which Oatly handle heartfelt issues raised on these pages and elsewhere: "Say what you like, we will do it the way we want" is very telling.

    I will put my custom elsewhere, and I believe many others will do likewise. My support will go to companies doing the right thing and supporting, rather than trying to undermine, others who are trying to do the same.


    Martin
  • You're not the same company you've always been. There was a clear change a few years back. The old, small upstart company wouldn't have cared less about another similar small competitor.
    Oatly has turned into another global, morally bankrupt company, with a very skilled marketing department.
    No sale.
    Gareth.
  • Hey Gareth, and Hi Martin, it’s the guy with the strange version of your name just checking in (or out, who knows? They’re not necessarily opposites) to say that as an oat-based sustainability company we are of course interested in profit AND moving the whole food industry towards a more sustainable future. We know this sounds crazy to some people but they are, in fact, not opposites. Safe to say, you need profit to get the attention of that (or any) industry and if we stopped caring about it, we wouldn’t be able to help forward the sustainability movement by making the upgrade to a plant-based lifestyle the easiest thing in the world. The investors mentioned have been with us since 2016 and you are completely right that they, and a bunch of others, have assisted us in the change from the anonymous inventors of oat drink we were then to becoming the global sustainability enthusiasts we are today. We did that by taking the values we had internally and showing them to the world, saying, hey, this is us, here’s our liquid oats, take it or leave it. Since then we have inspired hundreds of companies to make versions of our invention across the globe, making it possible for people who are angry with us to both take it AND leave it, which is a pretty cool thing and yet another perceived opposite that turned out to be the opposite of opposites.
    Mårten
  • I sincerely give Mårten credit for staying engaged, selling the story, and protecting the brand. Not sure there are many company execs I can think of who would continue to weather this backlash.  Kudos are in order.

    For those of you who are interested in how some on the Street think about the company's approach, practices and outlook would invite you to take a read of SprucePoint's post on their thoughts. Clearly, they have a vested interest in negative news (as they have amassed a considerable short position), but interesting nonetheless https://www.sprucepointcap.com/oatly-group-ab/
    Russ
  • Russ! You had me at “credit”, hooked me with “engaged” completely seduced me with “company exec”, but then you lost me again with the link to that sack of lies produced by a short seller out to make a quick buck on other people’s losses. To counter it I would like to share a link of my own to were you can find our 2020 Sustainability report and our 2Q21 Earnings Presentation: https://investors.oatly.com/news-events/presentations. We don’t know if it has the same Street cred but at least we’re keeping it real. Anyway, thanks for the kind words.
    Mårten
  • I see the facetiousness creeping into Oatly posts....

    I put it to Oatly that, as a majority Chinese owned company, they and their Overlords are in order to suppress other brands (just like China does elsewhere in it's doctrines, with free speech, human rights etc)

    Your jobs, as I see it, is to masquerade as "cool" or "hipster" and to brush off what is in fact an extremely worrying future outlook for all businesses.

    Regardless of your personal quips, the final motive is global domination, and you at Oatly are facilitating this coup from the inside in your own small part.

    No human being with a modicum of common sense would fail to grasp this simple concept.

    Oatly was in a position to stay privately owned and keep it's more modest market share, whilst allowing other brands to be "inspired" as you put it, to also have small,  local, modest market shares. This would have been a much more sustainable route for numerous reasons.

    Growth is mostly used a metaphor for unbridled greed or thoughtless dominance.

    Oatlys' relentless "rinse and repeat" party line does not fool me, nor any other previous customer with any wits.

    As you are now a faceless, publicly* owned company and you simply have no way back. The only option is to keep chanting that mantra, which, I for one can't do.

    That's all before we understand the science behind Oatly and that it actually isn't all that good for you as the process that turns it into a "milk" increases the sugars like Maltose, so a latte sized Oatly drink has roughly the same effect on blood sugars as a 12 ounce Coke....Or that it contains rape oil...
    Or Oatlys' links to a company devastating the Amazon rainforest (Blackstone)......I can go on but frankly I really can't be bothered. Do your own research and make up your own minds.
    I did and I won't be back, but hey, it's a free country (For now eh China?)

    I will lastly add, that I do respect that you (Oatly) has this forum and allows people to freely express their views, that has at least reclaimed you some respect from myself.

    *Chinese.
    Gareth.
  • Hi Gareth, welcome to the discussion about our court case with Glebe Farm. I’ll try and respond to all your concerns even though none of them are about the case, but in the future it might be a good idea to create a new discussion or find an existing that fits what you want to talk about. It would help in keeping the forum relevant and also make it easier for people to find what you have written.

    If you choose to look at the ingredients lists on the products you mention and then compare them for yourself instead of reading blogposts about them, what you will discover is that a coke in the UK has 10,6 g of carbohydrates per 100 ml of which 10,6 g are sugars. So, it’s all empty calories. Compare that to our Oat Drink Barista Edition. It has 6,6 g carbohydrates per 100 ml of which 4,0 g are sugar and it comes with unsaturated fat (the rapeseed oil), fibre and protein so it really is two completely different drinks that are also consumed quite differently. We’re pretty proud of our process and you can learn more about it here: https://www.oatly.com/uk/our-process

    You have a point with the world domination accusation though. Our aim is to have the entire world make the switch from a meat and dairy-based consumption to a more sustainable and plant-based one. So we do want to see the plant-based movement dominate the world when it comes to consumption. All our owners have been of great assistance to us in becoming the driving force of the movement that we are today and this is true for Europe, America and Asia alike. You can find our Board of Directors here: https://investors.oatly.com/corporate-governance/board-of-directors and our Management team here: https://investors.oatly.com/corporate-governance/management (And for some faces, have a look at part of the Community Management team here: https://forum.uk.oatly.com/org/oatly-mddf/editors/). Earlier this year we made our debut on Nasdaq so today we have a more varied set of owners than ever before, since anyone with a little extra money now can own a share in our company.

    When it comes to the Amazon, a large part of the deforestation is made to make way for cattle and to grow animal feed, so by choosing a plant-based lifestyle you help counter it. This is true for both regular people and global investors and we want to help facilitate it by being available as the better choice on the shelves at your local grocer and on the global investment market.

    When we talk about growth, we talk about the prerequisite to make it easy for people to eat healthy without taxing the planet’s resources. As more and more people make the smart shift to plants instead of an animal-based consumption, the meat and dairy companies will become smaller or adapt while the plant-based ones become larger. That’s not greed, that’s just common sense.
    Mårten
  • I'm thinking of starting a goat's milk brand called Goatly, or maybe I'll provide a service for householders who want to keep less desirable members of society at a safe distance.  This I will call Moatly.  OK with these?
    How pathetic this all is.
    Have just placed my order for some delicious UK grown, UK produced & UK owned oat milk. Yum, yum!
    Spencer Chapman
  • Well no, Spencer, we're not okay with your ideas but not because of the names. Enjoy your tasty beverage.
    Mårten

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