Oatly denied trademark for ‘It’s like milk but made for humans’ slogan as ‘Consumers know cow’s milk is for calves’

Read Time:   |  9th November 2020

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Oat milk brand Oatly has been denied a trademark for 'It's like milk but made for humans' because 'consumers know cow's milk is for calves'.


You thought the EU trying to make veggie burgers into ‘veggie discs’ was crazy enough? It’s all got a lot more complicated.

Swedish brand Oatly has been denied a trademark for their logline ‘It’s like milk but made for humans’ for the bizarre reason that ‘people know cow’s milk is for calves’.

If consumers know this – why then was the EU so hellbent on changing terminology around veggie burgers and sausages, claiming it ‘confused’ the public? We’re as baffled as you are!

‘Milk is intended for calves’

The European Trademark Office (EUIPO) said on the matter: “There is a belief in society today that milk is not good for the human body…[people are] well aware that for e.g. cow’s milk is food for calves.”

Essentially, the ruling has been made on the basis that ‘the average person in an English speaking EU market understands milk is, in fact, intended for calves’.

This completely contradicts the EU’s decision to place a ban on companies using terms like ‘cheese-style’ and ‘butter alternative’ to describe plant-based dairy products. How can consumers be aware that milk is intended for calves but simultaneously be ‘deceived’ by a packet of vegan cheese? And how can the EUIPO claim to know milk is not good for the human body yet make it more difficult for plant-based alternatives to promote themselves?


‘Misleading people’

This is made more confusing by the fact that when the campaign initially launched in 2014 the Swedish Dairy Association successfully sued Oatly, with the court ruling that it was ‘misleading people’. It also said it was ‘scaring them into thinking cow’s milk is dangerous’ through its use of this line.

This similar contradiction has left Oatly puzzled. The brand told Plant Based News: “We are now as confused as you probably are. After all, we’re pretty sure our job isn’t done yet.

“Does the ‘average consumer’ (whoever that is) really believe that milk is not good for their body and is meant for baby cows?

“At the same time, in a society that (apparently) believes that milk is not good for the human body, here in the UK there are still government-funded campaigns pushing for the consumption of more dairy. Makes sense right?”

A controversial investment

This new legal battle comes shortly after controversy broke out over Oatly’s newest investor Blackstone. Oatly’s choice of Blackstone as an investor did not sit well with some ethical consumers who chose the oat milk brand for their commitment to sustainable change.

However, sometimes ‘progression entails dancing with the devil’ and the investment will enable the oat milk revolution to expand. Isn’t that what we all want?

Oatly will be taking their case concerning their logline to the General Court, and hoping for a very different ruling.

Click here for all the latest dairy-alternative product releases in the UK.

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