Tea dispute still brewing as descendants weigh in
Updated: 2013-04-03 05:31
By Zhang Zhao (China Daily)
Some Wong Lo Kat's descendants claim they never authorized use of the formula to Guangzhou Pharmaceutical. Geng Guoqing / For China Daily
Following a long-running, sometimes bitter, battle over legal rights to the popular Wong Lo Kat brand of herbal tea, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical Holdings prevailed over Hong Kong-based JDB Group last year.
Yet it now faces another challenge - from descendants of the tea's namesake originator who recently announced they "never licensed the tea's formula" to the Guangzhou company.
A veteran in the tea war, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical countered that it has enough evidence to prove it is the rightful successor to the famous drink.
Agnes Kin-Yee Wong, great-great-granddaughter of Wong Chat Bong - or commonly known as Wong Lo Kat - and other family members held a press conference in Shenzhen on March 26. They claimed the recipe for the tea "has (always) been owned by Wong's descendants only".
Wong said she licensed the formula exclusively to JDB in 1992. She now serves as honorary chairperson of the company.
"The current Jiaduobao herbal tea and the former Wang Lo Kat herbal tea in red cans, both produced by JDB, are authorized to use the secret recipe of Wong Chat Bong," she said at the press conference.
She also raised objections to four trademark applications by Guangzhou Pharmaceutical that use portraits of Wong Chat Bong or his descendants.
She said many people are now using the name, portrait, honor and historic events of Wong Chat Bong as trademarks or in commercials.
"Many products on the market bearing the name Wong Lo Kat are actually not produced by our family, such as instant porridge," she said. "From generation to generation we have only sold herbal tea, and want to promote the herbal tea culture."
In a statement, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical responded that it "respects the time-honored brand and the descendants of its creator, and is grateful to his contribution to society".
But at a ceremony to mark the 185th anniversary of Wong Lo Kat tea on March 28, the company said Agnes Wong's opinion only represents one branch of the founder's descendants.
The company said that there are two main branches of Wong's descendants today - one in Guangzhou and the other in Hong Kong that separated from the family in the early 1890s.
Agnes Wong belongs to the Hong Kong clan.
Guangzhou Pharmaceutical's statement said there have been no business relationships between the two branches over the past century except for disputes in court, and the Hong Kong branch "did not inherit the herbal tea business".
It also claimed to have nine documents notarized by the Guangzhou Notary Office that it says proves it is the only legal successor to Wong Lo Kat herbal tea on the Chinese mainland.
A ruling by the China International Economic and Trade Arbitration Commission last year banned JDB from using the trademark Wong Lo Kat after it ruled the trademark authorization from Guangzhou Pharmaceutical was invalid.
(China Daily 04/03/2013 page17)