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November 10, 2020

Danone in legal spat with Land O’Lakes over licensing agreement

Land O'Lakes, a US agri-food business with a focus on dairy, has responded to allegations made by Danone over a licensing agreement.

By Dean Best

Land O’Lakes, a US agri-food business with a focus on dairy, has said it is “disappointed” with a court case brought by French heavyweight Danone over an alleged licensing infringement for cream products.

Danone’s North American division has issued a complaint against Land O’Lakes in the District Court of Colorado, claiming the US company infringed on an agreement formed in 2013 with what was then WhiteWave Foods, a plant-based business the French dairy giant acquired in 2016 from the now bankrupt and dissolved dairy company Dean Foods.

WhiteWave Foods is operating under the designation WWF Operating Company.

Danone’s North American division said in a statement provided to just-food: “This matter relates to a contractual dispute regarding our trademark license agreement, which is currently in force. It is Danone’s position that Land O’Lakes does not have the right to license the trademarks to any other parties pursuant to the terms of the agreement with WWF Operating Company, LLC.”   Media reports have suggested while the licensing agreement is still in force across the US, a concurrent agreement with Dean Foods in 2002 permitted that company to sell the same products in eight states until May this year. 

But when Dean Foods went bankrupt last year, Danone alleges Land O’Lakes then proceeded to license the cream products to subsidiaries of Dairy Farmers of America and Prairies Farms Dairy. Both of those companies acquired assets from Dean Foods following the bankruptcy proceedings.

Land O’Lakes responded to the allegations with its own statement: “We disagree with the allegations made against us yesterday by WhiteWave Foods/Danone North America. We have had a long standing and mutually-beneficial relationship with WhiteWave/Danone and were surprised and disappointed to learn of the filing. We will respond to the allegations in due course.”

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