After receiving more than one threatening letter from corporate Swedish giant Oatly to abandon its trademark, the American-made company makes the statement that it will not be swayed by money and power and files formal legal complaint.
LINDON, Utah—The Utah-based business BetterBody Foods & Nutrition LLC never imagined the launch of its oat milk brand would be the object of corporate bullying, but it’s how president and CEO Stephen Richards describes the cease-and-desist letters his company received from Oatly AB, a Swedish-owned brand with American investments.
Last year BetterBody Foods (BBF) entered the non-dairy beverage space with a non-GMO, organic, gluten-free, vegan and kosher certified oat milk. After extensive research and following all proper legal procedures, it successfully registered the OATSOME® brand with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. The health-conscious food company also registered the OATSOME mark in numerous countries including the United Kingdom, China, Australia and Singapore.
Although BBF’s trademark application was never legally contested before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, in September of 2019 just as BBF’s OATSOME® brand was getting ready to launch BBF received its first letter from Oatly’s legal counsel asserting that it owned the mark “TOTALLY OATSOME ”. BBF checked Oatly’s packaging a second time after receiving the cease-and-desist letter and found that Oatly was not even using the TOTALLY OATSOME trademark when it sent the letter. Oatly has also challenged BBF’s right to use OATSOME® within the European Union and China despite Oatly not having registered the TOTALLY OATSOME mark in those areas, either. What Richards found most baffling was Oatly’s claim to the word “oat” as Oatly demanded that BBF never use or seek registration for any trademarks incorporating the word “oat” into another word.
“Essentially it boils down to corporate bullying where they are saying, we know that you own Oatsome but we want it any way and we are going to spend a lot of money harassing you if you do not give it to us,” Richards said.
On July 10, BBF filed a complaint against the global brand and its use of the tagline “TOTALLY OAT-SOME” on product packaging for oat milk. According to the court filing, “Given that no use of ‘OATSOME’ by Oatly had turned up during BetterBody Foods’ search of the OATSOME mark prior adopting it, BetterBody Foods was surprised at Oatly AB’s claim to own the trademark TOTALLY OATSOME.” The complaint also states that BBF was “taken aback at Oatly’s overreaching demand” to never register trademarks incorporating the word “oat” into another word.
Upon further investigation, BBF discovered that Oatly filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register TOTALLY OATSOME several days before sending their cease-and-desist letter, but months after BBF filed its application. The complaint further reports that as of June 1, 2020, Oatly AB was selling oat milk under the mark “TOTALLY OAT-SOME” at Whole Foods Store, Target, Wegmans and Amazon.com.
“It’s hard to imagine that a brand like Oatly, a brand built on being hip, cool, environmentally conscious or, in other words, anything other than ‘corporate’ is now acting in a way that exemplifies everything that is bad about being a multinational corporation,” Richards said. “I imagine their conduct is expected, however, since taking investments from various New York based private equity firms. It reminds me of a lot of businesses that develop and connect with the community but quickly lose their soul when they sell out to big money.”
The complaint was filed in the Utah District Court. BBF is seeking damages and a judgment that the alleged trademark infringement is willful and constitutes unfair competition.
About BetterBody Foods & Nutrition LLC: Founded by Stephen Richards in 2007, BetterBody Foods believes making better food choices contributes to a happy and healthy life. Committed to providing the best organic and natural foods for cooking, baking, health and wellness, the BBF team is constantly innovating and creating new healthy products. The company created household names such as their best-selling PBfit peanut butter powder, Oatsome and Plant Junkie, all of which are available on-line and in major retailers around the country.