The dispute centres around the use of the name Yoplait Essence, which, say Danone, is too close to Bifidus Essensis, the pseudo-scientific name invented by Danone's marketing department for a strain of bacteria used in its Activia range of probiotic yoghurt.
The action is against Yoplait International, Yoplait Marque Internationales (as the arm of Yoplait that holds the trademarks) and against Glanbia Foods - as the licensee of the Yoplait Essence name in the Irish market.
A spokesperson for Glanbia told NutraIngredients.com that Danone no longer use the Bifidus Essensis name in Ireland, and that their product range is Yoplait Essence, and not Essensis.
"Glanbia Consumer Foods will vigorously contest the claims made against it and believes wholly in the Essence product and campaign," said the company in a statement.
"We await the decision of the courts and will comment appropriately at that time."
The probiotic market is one of the fastest growing sectors in fresh dairy markets with a retail growth of about 12 per cent, according to Euromonitor.
The Yoplait Essence range, launched in February in Ireland only, is seen by Glanbia as a way to increase its position in the value chain. The company has set a target of doubling its share of the Irish functional food segment to 12 per cent.
The fresh dairy market in Ireland is valued at €230m annually, while the functional foods segment of that market is estimated to be worth €85m. The segment is reported to have experienced significant growth in recent years, with household penetration estimated to be 66 per cent.
Danone, however, is reported in the Sunday Times as saying that Glanbia's claim is "disingenuous".
"'Essensis' is a global trademark for Danone which is in current use worldwide. Like any other business, Danone is forced to defend its trademark and has decided to do so, following an application made by Yoplait Marque Internationales to register the name 'Yoplait Essence'.
It would be inappropriate to comment further in view of the fact that a court case on this issue will take place in the very near future," said Danone in a statement.
Danone's sales of its probiotic Activia yoghurt brand rose 30 per cent in the third quarter of 2005, and is reported to have a quarter of the Irish probiotics market.
Activia, launched in the US in February, contains a unique bacterial strain that is reported to improve digestion and keep the body healthy.
The group's other big probiotic brand, Actimel, increased sales by 15 per cent in the same period. Market research firm AC Nieslen named Actimel the UK's fastest growing food brand in 2004.
The court case is scheduled to be heard on April 24th.