Oat milk container next to a cappuccino

Oatly takes legal action against rival UK oat milk brand over trademark infringement

By James Wan

What you need to know (in a nutshell)

  1. Oatly, the plant milk maker backed by Oprah Winfrey is in a court battle with a Cambridgeshire farm (Glebe Farm Foods) over alleged trademark infringement.
  2. Lawyers for Oatly sought a High Court injunction to stop Glebe Farm Foods from selling its PureOaty brand.
  3. Oatly has grown rapidly in recent years and is now worth more than $15bn and sold in 60,000 shops and over 32,000 coffee shops across 20 countries.

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Oatly, the renowned plant-based milk company with high-profile backing from Oprah Winfrey has instigated a High Court injunction against Glebe Farm Foods, alleging trademark infringement. The legal team representing Oatly contends that Glebe Farm Foods’ PureOaty brand encroaches upon Oatly’s trademarks, having initially voiced these concerns in early 2020. Phillip Rayner, the farmer behind Glebe Farm, asserts that the name of his product is a tribute to the purity it offers consumers. However, Oatly remains steadfast in pursuing legal action, maintaining that the PureOaty brand infringes upon its intellectual property rights.

Rayner’s company has been manufacturing the oat-based beverage, sourced from British farms, for roughly a year and a half. Oatly has recently requested that Glebe Farm cease using the PureOaty brand name and modify its packaging, citing its similarity to Oatly’s branding. Rayner has expressed disbelief at the claim, noting that a side-by-side comparison of the products reveals their differences. An Oatly spokesperson referred to their 2020 letter of complaint, to which they received no constructive response, and stated that the ongoing court case in the London High Court would conclude on Thursday, precluding any further comment until then.

Oatly, established in the 1990s, has witnessed extraordinary growth in recent years. The company’s oat-based milk alternatives can now be found in 60,000 stores and 32,000 coffee shops globally, earning a valuation exceeding $15 billion. Prominent investors in Oatly include celebrities Oprah Winfrey, Jay-Z, and Natalie Portman. At the same time, China Resources, a state-owned enterprise, and Belgium-based investment firm Verlinvest have also provided financial backing to this rapidly expanding business.