A COLAC district bakery has won a David and Goliath legal battle against a multinational food company.
Sanitarium Health Food Company has lost its attempt to sue Irrewarra Sourdough Bakery in the Federal Court, claiming the bakery infringed its trademark on the word granola.
Sanitarium claimed the bakery had used the term since August 2004.
The bakery, which Irrewarra’s Bronwynne and John Calvert own, produces and sells packets of toasted nut, seed and oat mix labelled “all natural handmade granola”.
Sanitarium has a trademark on the term as part of its granola oat clusters breakfast food.
The bakery resisted Sanitarium’s demands to stop using the word granola, claiming it used the word “purely descriptively” rather than as a trademark.
Sanitarium claimed the bakery had no right to use the word on its cereal packaging.
Mrs Calvert said she and her husband were relieved the two-year legal battle, and four-day court proceedings were over.
“It was a very expensive case and we are very happy we won,” she said.
“Our product is very successful and we now bake on average two tonnes a week and send it all over Australia.
“It’s a fantastic product and its worth fighting for – it’s a classic granola which was invented in America in the 1970s.”
Justice Jane Jagot heard the case in Sydney where Irrewarra Sourdough’s lawyers, including Jane Good of Melbourne-based Brand Partners Lawyers, argued the word granola was in dictionaries and cookbooks.
The bakery’s lawyers also argued that it did not use the word “as a badge of origin”, which Sanitarium had to prove for “trademark use” under the Trade Marks Act 1995.
The legal battle also involved forensic descriptions of granola, a history of the food and evidence from food writer Jill Dupleix.
Sanitarium’s lawyers claimed granola, although widely known in America as a crunchy, toasted cereal, had a more “boutique” meaning in Australia and was limited to its breakfast products.
Justice Jagot last week rejected Sanitarium’s case, agreeing that Irrewarra Sourdough used the word granola to describe the contents of the package, not as a badge of origin or trademark.
“In any event, and for the reasons given, I am satisfied that Irrewarra is not using the word granola as a trademark on its products,” Justice Jagot said.
“As such, Sanitarium has not established any infringement and Mr and Mrs Calvert cannot be liable as joint tortfeasors.
“The proceedings should be dismissed with costs.”