By Shakeh Avoyan
The Yerevan-based subsidiary of the French group Pernod Ricard, the world's fifth largest producer of wines and spirits, is to file two lawsuits against its main Armenian competitor, reviving a trademark dispute that seemed to be laid to rest in late 2000.
The owner of the Yerevan Brandy Company (YBC) is accusing the rival firm Great Valley of continuing to use traditional Armenian cognac brands to which it has exclusive rights.
The row revolves around the appearance of the word “Ararat” on the labels of Great Valley brandies. “Ararat” is one of 18 brands which are the exclusive property of YBC.
The Armenian government’s patenting agency ruled in April 2000 that the Armenian firm can not produce and sell cognacs under the name “Great Ararat.” But the government moved to enforce the ban only in September that year after the French threatened to cancel purchases of grape from local farmers.
YBC managers now claim that Great Valley continues to illegally sell “Great Ararat” brandies abroad, a charge the latter strongly denies.
“The people from Great Valley are lying, they are liars,” YBC’s chief executive, Pierre Larretche, told RFE/RL on Tuesday, adding that Pernod Ricard is losing “hundreds of thousands of dollars” because of the alleged copyright violations.
Larretche said his lawyers will back up the charge with concrete evidence in court. He said they will also try to prove, in a separate suit, that the Armenian drinks group can not call its cognac division Great Ararat. That name also appears on Great Valley labels.
The Great Valley chairman, Tigran Arzakantsian, denied the accusations and said his company is ready to face a court battle. He accused the French giant of seeking to tarnish its rival’s image and thereby gain a competitive edge.
Russia is the main market for the production of both cognac distilleries. YBC nearly doubled its sales abroad last year, capitalizing on the economic recovery in Russia. Great Valley also posted improved results.
The first Pernod Ricard lawsuit will be filed later this month, according to Larretche.