Woolworths ‘honest to goodness’ injunction turned down

Independent food retailer Organic Marketing Australia has failed in its attempt to stop supermarket giant Woolworths from using the phrase “honest to goodness” through a court injunction.


Organic Marketing Australia, which trades as Honest to Goodness and has trademarked the name, asked the Federal Court last week for an injunction to stop the company running its new marketing campaign starring celebrity chef Margaret Fulton.


The case will now move forward to a full Federal Court trial in three weeks time, unless the parties can come to a mediated agreement in the coming weeks.


The Woolworths campaign, featuring a logo with the words “Margaret Fulton’s Honest to Goodness Family Meals”, was launched two weeks ago in the form of television commercials, recipe cards and a website.


However, Justice Anna Katzmann has refused the interlocutory injunction, enabling Woolworths to continue its campaign.


Katzmann said stopping the campaign would have a bigger impact on Woolworths than it would on Organic Marketing Australia.


“I appreciate that damage to a small business may have a greater impact than the same amount of damage to a large enterprise,” she said.


“On the evidence before me, however, the damage to Woolworths far outweighs any damage to the applicants’ business that the continuation of the campaign may cause in the period until final judgment.”


Matt Ward, founder of Organic Marketing Australia, says although he is disappointed by the outcome, he is not overly surprised the injunction was not granted.


“However, the fact the full trial has been pushed forward is a positive outcome. We believe we have a strong case and remain committed to the belief that Woolworths is using Honest to Goodness as a brand to promote their business,” Ward says.


Ward remains concerned that the advertising spend around Woolworths’ campaign – estimated to be worth $3 million – is so prolific that customers could become confused as to the association between the two companies.


“We believe that our reputation, which has honesty and integrity at the core, will be seriously tarnished by any assumed association with Woolworths,” he says.


“In the natural and organic food industry, reputation is everything. If people don’t trust you, they simply won’t buy from you.”


Woolworths said it was pleased with Justice Katzmann’s decision.


“We remain strongly of the view ‘honest to goodness’ is a commonly-used term, which Woolworths and other parties should be free to use,” a company spokesperson said.


“But we continue to be open to discussion with the applicant to resolve this issue.”


Katzmann’s judgement on the application for an injunction suggests the outcome of the trial remains very much up in the air.


While Katzmann wrote that “on the question of trademark infringement I am therefore persuaded that there is a serious question to be tried”, she did say losses on the part of Organic Marketing Australia would be “very difficult to quantify”.


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