Israeli org seeks to sell products under Ben & Jerry's name in Israeli-occupied areas

Israeli org seeks to sell products under Ben & Jerry's name in Israeli-occupied areas
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An Israeli organization said it registered a commercial entity called “Judea and Samaria’s Ben & Jerry’s” with the Israeli registry of corporations and plans to sell products under the name in the Israeli-occupied West Bank and east Jerusalem.

In a recent letter sent to Unilever, of which Ben & Jerry's is a subsidiary, Nitsana Darshan-Leitner, president of the Tel-Aviv based Shurat HaDin – Israel Law Center, notified the company that her organization registered a commercial entity under the new name with the Israeli Corporations Authority. 

Darshan-Leitner said the group intends to use the ice cream company’s name “and match the Vermont company’s current ice cream line,” in addition to adding “on new flavors and products using locally-sourced ingredients and traditional spices and flavors of the region.”

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The letter comes just days after the American ice cream company made headlines when it announced it would end sales of its ice cream in Israeli-occupied areas. 

At the time, the company, which was founded by two Jewish men, Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, said it believes it’s inconsistent with its values for its products “to be sold in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT).”

“We have a longstanding partnership with our licensee, who manufactures Ben & Jerry’s ice cream in Israel and distributes it in the region. We have been working to change this, and so we have informed our licensee that we will not renew the license agreement when it expires at the end of next year," the company said at the time, though it added products would still be sold in Israel.

The company said it made the decision after hearing concerns from fans and trusted partners amid increased tensions between Israel and the Palestinians. 

Darshan-Leitner said in the recent letter to Unilever that the move by the ice cream maker amounted to “an abandonment of the Ben &  Jerry’s trademark in those areas.”

“In order to maintain trademark protection against others utilizing your name there must be a bona fide intent to conduct business in a specific region,” Darshan-Leitner wrote.“You have publicly declared that your intent is to sever ties with this specific area evidencing the exact opposite of a bona fide intent to continue.”

“As such, Unilever’s announced boycott of what you call ‘Occupied Palestine,’ but which we understand is ‘a euphemism for areas where Jews live,’ means that Ben & Jerry’s abandoned trademark protections in that territory,” the letter said.

“We are confident we can expand the business into each and every community in the territory you have abandoned,” it continued.

Darshan-Leitner said the organization will “no longer consider Unilever nor the Vermont Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream company to have any right to utilise their previously-owned name in these territories, as you have publicly stated that you are withdrawing from there.”

“Accordingly, we warn both Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s against utilising the Ben & Jerry’s name in these areas. We will actively and aggressively defend our Ben &  Jerry’s name, rights, and trademarks in this area by all legal means,” Darshan-Leitner added.

The Hill reached out to Unilever and Ben & Jerry’s for comment on Tuesday. A representative for the ice cream maker referred The Hill to the company’s recent statement explaining its decision to end sales in the region.