Danone files counter claim against Chinese company in trademark dispute

French food and drink maker Danone said Thursday it has filed a counter claim against its estranged Chinese joint venture partner in an increasingly bitter trademark dispute.

Danone legal counsel Randall Lewis said Wahaha failed to fulfill a 1996 agreement to transfer the Wahaha name to the joint venture and recently lied in saying that the State Trademark Office had rejected such a transfer.

Thus far "there has been no circumstance or event that is sufficient to result in the termination of the rights and obligations of the parties under the Trademark Transfer Agreement," Lewis said.

Wahaha last month filed for arbitration claiming the Chinese government never approved Danone's request that their joint venture, set up in 1996, have exclusive use of the Wahaha brand name.

Danone accuses Wahaha of illegally selling products identical to those sold by the companies' joint ventures and has filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles seeking more than US$100 million for the alleged illegal sales.

It also filed for arbitration in Stockholm to help resolve the dispute. Wahaha's founder Zong Qinghou resigned from the chairmanship of the joint venture after the lawsuit was filed.

The months-old dispute has been increasingly played out in public, with Zong accusing the French company of launching a personal vendetta and Danone asserting their legal rights.