US ice cream firm Ben & Jerry’s has reportedly taken further legal action against parent company Unilever over its business in Israel.
New agency Reuters said the Vermont-based business has filed an updated lawsuit in a US federal court claiming Unilever “covertly” moved its trademarks to a Unilever business unit in 2000 and 2001, a move which, it claims, violated the terms of their merger agreement.
It is the latest move in an ugly legal spat between the companies following Unilever’s sale in June of Ben & Jerry’s business in Israel to a local licensee, Avi Zinger.
That stemmed from the decision a year earlier by Ben & Jerry’s founders to end sales in what they called Occupied Palestinian Territory because it was “inconsistent with its values”.
That decision, taken independently from Unilever, created a backlash against both Ben & Jerry’s and its parent in Israel, with senior politicians there claiming it demonstrated anti-Israeli sentiment and anti-semitism.
In its updated lawsuit, lodged on Friday (30 September), Ben & Jerry’s said it only learned about its trademarks being moved from recent court filings. It is seeking damages and wants the trademarks returned. It has also asked a judge to stop Zinger from selling the ice cream in the West Bank.
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Ben & Jerry’s originally filed a lawsuit against Unilever in July to try to block the sale of its business in Israel, arguing it violated the original merger and shareholder agreement.
In August, a judge rejected Ben & Jerry’s bid to immediately stop sales in the West Bank, saying the manufacturer did not show it would suffer irreparable harm.
Ben & Jerry’s launched a new challenge in September, seeking a planned amendment against Unilever’s sale.
When contacted by Just Food about its latest court filing, a Ben & Jerry’s spokesperson said it would not be “covertly” while legal proceedings are ongoing.
Just Food has also contacted Unilever seeking a response to Ben & Jerry’s latest move.