from the we-all-scream dept
A couple of weeks back, we discussed 2021’s thus-far dumbest controversy: Ben & Jerry’s ceasing to sell ice cream in “occupied Palestinian territory”. The ice cream maker is owned by Unilver and found itself in intellectual property news after a law firm in Israel seized upon Ben & Jerry’s announcement to not sell its wares in a few sections of Israel to suggest that meant it was relinquishing its trademark. To that end, the firm sought to register a company it named “Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream of Judea and Samaria.” This action was part of a possibly coordinated attack response on the company, which included action in the States such as Florida Man Governor Ron DeSantis suggesting this meant B&J’s was “boycotting Israel” and should be scrutinized for that, and Jewish leaders indicating that B&J’s ice cream may lose its kosher rating.
As I said, all very stupid. But the trademark claim might be the dumbest of them all. Trademark laws are designed to keep the public from being confused as to a source of a good and the Israeli firm’s actions appear to achieve the exact opposite end. It’s also the case that, in general, trademark law doesn’t simply repeal a valid trademark simply because a company temporarily ceases to sell a good in one small section of a geographic area for which it’s registered.
And, so, it’s should come as no surprise that Unilever has sent a letter to the firm, Shurat HaDin, warning that it intends to protect its valid marks.
“Unilever unequivocally rejects all your assertions set forth therein including that Univeler has abandoned its trademark rights for Ben & Jerry’s in what you refer to as the Judea and Samaria region of Israel.” A letter dated August 12 reads, signed by Natalia Cavaliere, in response to a letter sent by Shurat HaDin’s President Nitsana Darshan-Leitner that reads.
“Please note that we deem any use of the trademark or tradename Ben & Jerry’s to be a violation of our intellectual property rights.” The letter continues.
As well it should. B&J’s nor Unilever have not abandoned their trademarks in Israel in the slightest. Ceasing sales in these regions doesn’t change that. And it should be obvious to anyone looking at this story and its genesis that this is part of a practice among some in Israel to create diplomatic pressure on private entities that say or do anything they don’t like when it comes to Israeli politics.
Those politics, while certainly important on the global stage, have nothing to do with Unilever’s trademark rights. Which everyone, including Shurat HaDin, absolutely knows. Hopefully the Israeli government can correctly dispense justice.