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SpecialKats: Verónica Rodríguez Arguijo (TechieKat), Hayleigh Bosher (Book Review Editor), and Tian Lu (Asia Correspondent).

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Peace of cheese? Halloumi trade mark application goes into meltdown, but better times may be ahead

This Kat was on his travels and otherwise engaged earlier this month when the General Court of the European Union gave its ruling in Joined Cases T‑292/14 and T‑293/14, Republic of Cyprus v Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market, so sadly it slipped his attention. He only realised this when he spotted a press release relating to it on the Curia website. The press release, lightly garnished with Kat comments, reads like this:

The General Court dismisses the actions brought by the Republic of Cyprus against the decisions to refuse registration of the signs HALLOUMI and XAΛΛOYMI

Under the Community Trade Mark Regulation [Council Regulation 207/2009 on the Community trade mark],signs which designate, either directly or by reference to one of their essential characteristics, the goods or services in respect of which registration is sought cannot be registered as Community trade marks [that's the law, but the reality is that quite a few such marks slip through, only to be invalidated when they come to court].

HALLOUMI and XAΛΛOYMI designate a particular type of cheese from the Republic of Cyprus [for more on Halloumi cheese click here], made in a certain way and having a particular taste, texture and cooking properties [this rather suggests that, in preference to trade mark registration, the term might be protected as a protected geographical indication, a protected designation of origin or a traditional speciality guaranteed (PGI, PDO or TSG) -- none of which are mentioned in the Court's narrowly focused judgment -- but see below]. In 2013, the Republic of Cyprus applied to the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (‘OHIM’) for registration of the signs HALLOUMI and XAΛΛOYMI for cheese, milk and milk products.

OHIM rejected the applications on the grounds that the signs in question referred to a speciality cheese from that country, that they therefore directly described, for the Cypriot public, the characteristics of the goods covered by the applications for trade mark registration, namely the kind and geographical origin of the cheese, milk and milk products applied for, and that those signs were thus necessarily devoid of any distinctive character within the meaning of the regulation on the Community trade mark.

The Republic of Cyprus then asked to the General Court to annul those decisions.

[...] the General Court dismisses the actions brought by the Republic of Cyprus and accordingly upholds the decisions to refuse registration of the signs HALLOUMI and XAΛΛOYMI as Community trade marks. The Court finds that the marks applied for could not be accepted for registration by reason of their descriptive meaning, for the Cypriot public, with regard to the goods in respect of which registration was sought.

Quality control: an inspector checks
for flavour and texture
The Court rejects the complaint that the regulation on the Community trade mark allows the registration of certification marks. The Court points out that that regulation does not provide for the registration of certification marks and therefore does not provide for the protection of such marks [indeed, the word "certification" appears 33 times in the General Court's decision, but not even once in the Regulation's provisions or recitations]. In order for certification marks to be capable of registration, they have to be filed as individual [or collective -- see Art.66 et seq of Regulation 207/2009] trade marks and must not be the subject of one of the absolute grounds for refusal laid down in the regulation on the Community trade mark.
All is not lost for Halloumi, however: the EU's Greek/Turkish Cypriot "peace of cheese" initiative here is intended to provide a measure of protection for this word but to spread its benefits across one of Europe's more sensitive borders.  Let's see if it works ...

Recipes using Halloumi from the BBC and Jamie Oliver
Hallo you, hallo me ... A Rock 'n' Roll Fantasy here [nostalgia warning]
Helule here [earworm warning]

1 comment:

Tobermory Cat said...

How frustrating for the legal team. I recall an aged gentleman telling me over lunch that he had been involved in securing a UK regional designation for a particular UK cheese. As a bonus for securing the designation he was supplied with that cheese for life. I am pleased to write that he lived to eat a great deal of cheese.

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