The final court date has been set for the ongoing legal battle between Woolworths and independent retailer Organic Marketing Australia, after the parties failed to reach an agreement over use of the phrase “Honest to Goodness”.
Last month, Organic Marketing Australia, which trades as Honest to Goodness, alleged Woolworths’ latest marketing push – starring celebrity chef Margaret Fulton – infringes its intellectual property.
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Organic Marketing Australia asked the Federal Court for an injunction to stop the company running its new campaign, but failed in its attempt.
It was announced the case would be moved forward to a full Federal Court trial, unless the parties could come to a mediated agreement.
Organic Marketing Australia co-founder Karen Ward, who owns and operates the business with her husband, says the parties were unable to reach an agreement at a court-appointed mediation.
As a result, the date for the final trial has been set for July 18-22. Ward says while Organic Marketing Australia was hoping to reach an agreement, it simply wasn’t possible.
The Wards have already forked out $120,000 in their bid to stop Woolworths from using the phrase, but Ward expects that figure to be “significantly more” as the fight continues.
She says the legal battle has had a detrimental impact on the business, as she and her husband have been “totally absorbed” in the case.
According to Ward, there has also been a lot of confusion as to whether Organic Marketing Australia is or was associated with Woolworths.
“It will definitely affect our profits going forward. It’s brand dilution and we’re a boutique brand, so it will significantly affect the brand,” she says.
“We can’t afford to have our business confused with Woolworths but that is exactly what has happened.”
Ward says in addition to the financial impact of the case, it continues to take a huge toll emotionally, particularly as the Wards have a young family and are expecting another child.
“We’re committing half our work life to this case… Yes, we’re crazy but it’s nine years of our life that have gone into this brand,” she says.
Ward says she and her husband are confident they will win against Woolworths because their case is “so solid”.
A Woolworths spokesperson says the company’s position remains the same, maintaining that the phrase “honest to goodness” is a commonly used term, which Woolworths and other parties should be free to use.
“The phrase ‘honest to goodness’ describes something which is essentially simple and genuine and, in the context of Margaret Fulton’s family meals, also nutritious,” the spokesperson says.
Ward says the supermarket giant is “playing really hard ball” and attempting to frighten the business out of pursuing the case.
“I guess this was to be expected as we are fighting an 800 pound gorilla. For us, it is still a matter of ethics and principle, and are willing to risk everything to fight for what is right,” Ward says.
“This is not a battle for us and our Honest to Goodness brand; it is a battle for trademarks and small business in Australia generally.”