Sanitarium beaten by the little guy in “Granola” trademark battle

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 14th June 2012

Irrewarra Sourdough Bakery, a small business located between Geelong and Colac, has won its case in the Federal Court against food giant Sanitarium over use of the term “granola”.

Reportedly, in late May 2012, cafes around Victoria had received a letter from Sanitarium’s lawyers to desist from usage of the word “granola”.

Irrewarra had been selling its product containing toasted nuts, seeds and oats, labelled as “all natural handmade granola”. Sanitarium, which produces a breakfast cereal labelled “Granola Oat Clusters”, sued Irrewarra Sourdough Bakery for infringing their trademark.

This David and Goliath trademark battle, which took place in the Federal Court of Australia, required evidence of the granola history, and well-known food writer Jill Dupleix was a key witness who testified about the prevalence around Australia of different products carrying the description of “granola”.

Sanitarium argued that, in Australia (as opposed to the U.S.), the name ”granola” was not a descriptive term for toasted cereal, but had a specific meaning limited to its own products. Sanitarium’s lawyers argued the Irrewarra Bakery had improperly used the term “granola” as a trademark.

In its defence against this trademark claim, Irrewarra argued that the use of the word was purely descriptive, and Justice Jayne Jagot of the Federal Court agreed. In her judgement, Justice Jagot rejected Sanitarium’s proposal that the word “granola” had only a limited meaning in Australia. She also pointed out the term was not a predominant feature of Irrewarra Sourdough Bakery’s packaging design.