OATLY lost a trademark dispute in the UK

The popular Swedish plant milk manufacturer OATLY lost a trademark dispute in the UK.

The case concerns a trademark application for PUREOATY for oat milk products filed by the family farm Glebe Farm.

Against this mark an opposition was filed by Swinish company based on several earlier marks OATLY for the same goods.

This case stirred up a lot of of negative comments for the company which was accused that of being bigger tries to block a smaller market competitor as the trademark applicant.

The Court dismissed the opposition in its entirety. Although finding some low level of similarity, the Court consider that from phonetic, visual and conceptual point of view both signs were not similar enough in order to create consumer confusion. The element PURE in the later mark was sufficient to overcome any possibility for such thing.

According to the Court, the common part OAT is descriptive for the relevant products and has not power to contribute to the potential similarity.

The claim that the mark tries to take unfair advantages from the established reputation of the earlier marks was dismissed too.

The claim for passing-off didn’t success either. The Court didn’t find any misrepresentation or misleading action by the Glebe Farm when using their PUREOATY mark.

This case is indicative how tricky could be a company to rely entirely or partially on descriptive terms for its trademarks. The Swedish company was successful before the EU Court regarding its slogan “It’s like milk but made for humans”  but in this new case failed. In addition, every attempt for monopolizing descriptive terms can cause negative public reaction that can even threaten the company’s sales. So managing such disputes can be really difficult. That’s why all of this has to be taken into account in the brand building strategy.

Source: Kilburn & Strode LLP – Ruby Vinsome за Lexology.