AZA Represents Ben & Jerry’s in International Lawsuit Against British-based Parent Company
August 9, 2022

HOUSTON – The board of directors of Ben & Jerry’s, the premium ice cream brand known for its social awareness, has hired AZA to fight its parent company Unilever, a multinational consumer product company, over the licensing of the frozen treat brand in the West Bank and other issues. 


The fight has gained international media attention after the board sued in federal court in New York seeking an injunction to stop the parent company from subverting their 2000 merger agreement that requires board approval for the sale of Ben & Jerry’s intellectual property. 


“This is an American institution that for the last 40 years has built its reputation in part on its social mission,” said AZA lawyer Shahmeer Halepota 


At issue is the planned sale of Ben & Jerry’s products in the West Bank, or Occupied Palestinian Territory, an action that goes against the ice cream company’s and the board’s earlier decision not to sell the products there. And, the board says, this violates the terms of the acquisition agreement with Unilever from 2000. That agreement gave Ben & Jerry’s autonomy in business matters regarding the essential integrity and social mission of the brand.  


U.S. District Judge Andrew Carter held a hearing Aug. 8 to consider an injunction to stop the use of Ben & Jerry’s brand in the West Bank. The judge held this hearing after mediation failed. He took the lawyers’ arguments under advisement. 


AZA co-founder John Zavitsanos said the board of Ben & Jerry’s, a Vermont-based company, interviewed many law firms to represent them in this case and chose AZA, which is moving forward at full speed. The other AZA lawyers on the team are co-founder Joe Ahmad, partner Jane Langdell Robinson, Of Counsel Judge Daryl Moore and associates Kelsi Stayart White and Thomas Frashier.


Coverage of this matter includes these articles (subscription required for many): “Ben & Jerry’s to Take On Owner in Court Hearing Over Israeli Business” in the The Wall Street Journal, “Ben & Jerry’s Has ‘No Power’ to Halt Israel Deal, Unilever Says” by Bloomberg, “Ben & Jerry’s says Unilever froze directors’ salaries over Israel” by Reuters, “Ben & Jerry’s Board Argues To Block Israel Licensing Deal” by Law360, and “Ben & Jerry’s seeks injunction against its Israeli franchisee” in the Times of Israel. 


“This is not just about Ben & Jerry’s 2021 decision concerning sales of our product in the West Bank. Unilever’s action to reverse the decision of the Ben & Jerry’s Board to advance the company’s Social Mission is a clear violation of the letter and the spirit of our original Merger Agreement with Unilever,” said Ben & Jerry’s Board of Directors Chair, Anuradha Mittal. “If Unilever is willing to so blatantly violate the Agreement that has governed the parties’ conduct for over two decades, then we believe it won’t stop with this issue. If left unaddressed, Unilever’s actions will undermine our social mission and the essential integrity of the brand, which threatens our reputation, and ultimately, our business as a whole.”     


The case is Ben & Jerry’s Homemade Holdings Inc., vs. Conopco, Inc., in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 1:22-cv-05681.


AZA, or Ahmad, Zavitsanos & Mensing, is a Houston-based law firm that is home to true courtroom lawyers with a formidable track record in complex commercial litigation, including energy, healthcare, intellectual property, and business dispute cases. AZA is recognized by Chambers USA 2022 among the best in Texas commercial law and intellectual property; by U.S. News – Best Lawyers’ Best Law Firms as one of the country’s best commercial litigation firms for 10 years running; has been named Litigation Department of the Year by Texas Lawyer three times including for 2021; and was previously dubbed by Law360 a Texas Powerhouse law firm.  


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