Two sides call truce in public tea tempest
By Hao Nan(China Daily)
Updated: 2013-03-20

 Two sides call truce in public tea tempest

Part of the dispute between Guangzhou Pharmaceutical and JDB is the iconic red cans that both use. Liu Junfeng / For China Daily

Exhausted by a seemingly endless rivalry, both open and secret, over trademarks, packaging and advertising slogans, two controversial Chinese herbal tea makers recently vowed to call a truce in a public war of words that has lasted for months.

They both say they will now concentrate on developing better products.

Consumers are also weary of the unceasing squabble between Guangzhou Pharmaceutical and Hong Kong-based JDB, asking why the two continue the tempest because it only repels buyers, according to interviews in The Beijing News.

"I often read news about the two herbal tea makers explicitly criticizing each other, which in my opinion is overdone," a woman told The Beijing News when shopping at a local Carrefour supermarket.

"This is not what large companies are suppose to do. For consumers the concern is mostly about product quality, not trademarks and so forth," she said.

Guangzhou Pharmaceutical appears to agree. It issued a statement saying "we are afraid the series of disputes will disappoint consumers if they continue and so have decided to move the focus to product research and development and provide real benefits".

The statement also noted the company will not respond to the topic in the future.

A spokesman for JDB told The Beijing News that the company will also stop the attacks and concentrate on expanding its share of the herbal tea market.

The two made headlines many times since 2011, when the mainland company filed an application with the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission against JDB asking it to stop using the trademark of Wanglaoji, a popular herbal tea also known as Wong Lo Kat.

Guangzhou Pharmaceutical first licensed the trademark Wong Lo Kat to JDB in 1995 and later extended the rights until 2010.

Permission to use the trademark was then illegally granted until 2020 by Guangzhou Pharmaceutical's former vice-chairman Li Yimin, who is now in prison for bribery.

A verdict issued by the arbitration commission last year ended the fierce trademark dispute, but did not prevent subsequent public quarrels between the two companies.

Since Guangzhou Pharmaceutical prevailed in the lawsuit, JDB group has launched the new trademark Jiaduobao to replace Wong Lo Kat on its iconic red cans.

The Hong Kong company also reformulated the advertising campaign for its herbal tea with new slogans, which then triggered another wave of argument.

The latest development in the dispute is a lawsuit filed by Guangzhou Pharmaceutical in February against JDB's advertising slogan that says "the popular herbal tea has changed its name to Jiaduobao".

In its lawsuit, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical asks for up to 1 billion yuan ($161 million) in compensation.

Though the dispute might appear petty to some consumers, for the companies the stakes are huge in the battle over one of the nation's most popular drinks. Combined sales of the two teas hit 24 billion yuan last year, according to the Beijing Morning Post.

(China Daily 03/20/2013 page17)

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