Settlement reached over “Honest to Goodness” IP battle

An official settlement has been reached between Woolworths and independent retailer Organic Marketing Australia, ending a three-month fight over the phrase “honest to goodness”.


According to an agreed public statement, the companies have reached a settlement “on mutually acceptable, confidential terms and on a without-admissions basis”.


“Woolworths’ Margaret Fulton Honest to Goodness Family Meals campaign is scheduled to end on December 31, 2011,” the statement reads.


In late March, Organic Marketing Australia – which trades as Honest to Goodness – alleged the Woolworths campaign infringed its intellectual property.


The campaign features celebrity chef Margaret Fulton, who is quoted in ads saying that Woolworths produce is “honest to goodness”.


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. The parties were unable to reach an agreement and, as a result, the date for the final trial was set for July 18-22.


However, it appears the fight has come to an end prematurely, with Organic Marketing Australia confirming a settlement had been reached.


Matt Ward, co-founder and managing director of Organic Marketing Australia, says his company has been fighting a “nightmare” legal battle.


“Registering the trademark ‘Honest to Goodness’ and trading under this brand for nine years should have been enough to protect our brand,” Ward says.


“Instead, we have been forced to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars in a legal battle to protect it.”


Woolworths could not be reached for comment. Meanwhile, Ward says the incident has damaged his brand, fearing other small retailers could find themselves in a similar predicament.


“Woolworth’s use of ‘Honest to Goodness’ was affecting people’s impression of our brand and confusing consumers. We’ve had loyal customers contact us feeling aggrieved we’ve sold our business to Woolworths and saying they won’t be buying our products,” he says.


“If this can happen to us, then it can happen to other well-meaning good businesses trying to do the right thing.”


“As an operator of a small business, you simply can’t afford to be distracted with a lengthy dispute and lose focus on everyday business. It is a relief now to be able to put all our energy back into what we are passionate about and that is the food.”


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