The move follows the launch of the supermarket’s Pitcher’s brand in April, a gin-based drink to which lemonade and fruit can be added.
The drinks maker, which also owns the Guinness, Bell’s and Smirnoff brands, says Pitcher’s infringes its intellectual property rights.
According to reports, Sainsbury’s says it will “vigorously defend” itself against the claims, adding that its customers “are savvy enough to know exactly what they’re buying, the clue is in the name, and we see no basis for such a claim.”
Sainsbury’s, as one of the UK’s largest supermarkets, is one of Diageo’s biggest customers.
The company says in its own statement that although it would “be inappropriate for us to comment further “, the supermarket is a “valued customer of Diageo and we hope will continue to be so for many years. It is Diageo’s firm intent that our strong trading relationship should not be affected by this discrete dispute”.