Ben & Jerry’s lost its bid to stop parent company Unilever from selling the socially conscious ice cream brand’s business in Israel to a licensee that would market its products in the West Bank.
In early July, Ben & Jerry’s filed for a temporary injunction to prevent Unilever from divesting its ice cream business in Israel to Avi Zinger, the owner of American Quality Products Ltd (AQP), the Israel-based licensee that had manufactured and distributed the brand in Israel and the West Bank. Through the arrangement, Ben & Jerry’s would be sold under its Hebrew and Arabic names under full ownership of AQP. According to Unilever, the deal had already closed by the time Ben & Jerry’s filed its suit.
In an Aug. 8 hearing on the preliminary injunction, Ben & Jerry’s argued the arrangement would cause irreparable harm by potentially allowing AQP to market its branded products in Israel and the West Bank with messaging contrary to the ice cream brand’s social mission, and could cause consumer confusion.
U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter in New York denied the injunction on Monday, ruling “purported harm is too speculative to constitute irreparable harm.” He said Ben & Jerry’s was presenting a “hypothetical scenario involving several speculative steps” by suggesting AQP could market Ben & Jerry’s products using a message contrary to that of the ice cream brand.
“The harm of customer confusion regarding Ben & Jerry’s positions is also remote,” Carter wrote in his opinion. “Ben & Jerry’s has offered no evidence of such confusion or the impact of the alleged confusion. If anything, media reports and this very lawsuit evince Ben & Jerry’s position on the issue.” Carter also noted that AQP would be selling Ben & Jerry’s under its Hebrew and Arabic names, not its English language trademark.
Unilever made the deal with AQP after Ben & Jerry’s announced in July 2021 that it would no longer allow its ice cream to be sold in the West Bank because it was “inconsistent with our values for our product to be present within an internationally recognised illegal occupation.”
Ben & Jerry’s and Unilever did not respond to requests for comment by press time.