Danone's Wahaha joint venture partner has confirmed that it has filed for arbitration in its long-running dispute with the French company.

The Chinese firm said yesterday (17 June) that its arbitration application was accepted by the Hangzhou Arbitration Commission late last week.

In 1996, Hangzhou Wahaha Group signed an agreement to transfer the Wahaha brand to Hangzhou Wahaha Food Co., the joint venture partner with Danone in the water, lactic beverages, energy drinks and RTD teas unit. According to Hangzhou Wahaha Group, the Chinese state trademark office did not approve the move, however.

"Therefore, the brand transfer failed and the brand transfer agreement expired," the group noted. "The Wahaha brand still belongs to Hangzhou Wahaha Group."

No-one was available at Danone for further clarification when contacted by just-drinks today.

Earlier this month, Danone filed a lawsuit against Hangzhou Wahaha Group, alleging that it is illegally selling products which are the same as those sold by the joint ventures and is making unlawful use of the joint ventures' distributors and suppliers.

Established in 1996, the Danone Wahaha joint venture is 49%-owned by Zong Qinghou who, earlier this month, resigned from the position of chairman of the joint venture. Danone holds the remaining 51%.