Is Wisconsin Gruyere Actually Gruyere or is it Simply Cheese?

Champagne is from the Champagne area of France, Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and Prosciutto di Parma ham from the Parma area of Italy, Toscano olive oil from Tuscany, Roquefort cheese and Champagne from the area of the identical title in France. Then there’s Irish Whiskey, Darjeeling tea, Florida oranges, Idaho potatoes, Vidalia onions, Washington State apples, and Napa Valley Wines. That is however a tiny instance of merchandise related to “geographical indications” (GIs). GIs are used to determine merchandise that come from a selected geographical area. They act as emblems (additionally known as “certification marks”) inasmuch as promoting merchandise marked with false geographical indication could also be deemed an infringement in addition to triggering different authorized liabilities. Geographical indications are protected by worldwide treaty in addition to trademark and unfair competitors legal guidelines.

In america, GIs are protected below US trademark legislation. So, Idaho for potatoes and Washington for apples are protected names. Not solely are the names protected however so are graphical logos related to the names. The Florida sunshine tree emblem is one instance:

A geographical indication could also be tough to acquire. Take, for instance, one among our favourite cheeses, Gruyere. Wikipedia describes Gruyere cheese as a 

Swiss-type or Alpine cheese, and is nice however barely salty, with a taste that varies extensively with age. It’s usually described as creamy and nutty when younger, turning into extra assertive, earthy, and sophisticated because it matures. When absolutely aged (5 months to a 12 months), it tends to have small cracks that impart a barely grainy texture.

From the outline, it seems to originate within the Swiss Alpine area of Gruyere. That’s what a gaggle of Swiss and French cheesemakers from Gruyere additionally consider. You possibly can think about how they felt when their trademark utility for GRUYERE was lately rejected by the USPTO. They argued that, like champagne, which solely originates within the Champagne area of France, Gruyere cheese solely originates from the Gruyere area of Switzerland, in any other case it’s simply cheese.

The cheesemakers voiced their displeasure at the USPTO determination to the US District Courtroom in Virginia hoping for a extra favorable ruling. To no avail. The district choose famous that the cheesemakers had beforehand and unsuccessfully utilized for a trademark in 2010. At the moment, the USPTO rejected the appliance on grounds that in america, Gruyere was a generic time period for a selected sort of cheese. You’ll recall that generic phrases don’t qualify as emblems. In step with the prior reasoning, the courtroom held that, in america, a majority of individuals affiliate Gruyere as a mode of cheese, not a cheese from a selected area. The US dairy export council within the Meals and Drug Administration assist that conclusion and had been elated by the choice (why wouldn’t they).The district choose wrote

a long time of importation, manufacturing, and sale of cheese labeled GRUYERE produced exterior the Gruyère area of Switzerland and France have eroded the that means of that time period and rendered it generic.
Though the time period gruyère could as soon as have been understood to point an space of cheese manufacturing, the factual file makes it abundantly clear that the time period gruyère has now, over time, grow to be generic to cheese purchasers in america.” Underneath U.S. legislation, emblems can’t be given to generic phrases.

The cheesemakers have already filed their discover of attraction. Coinciding with the cheesemakers’ try are related efforts by different European exporters to achieve geographical indications for Gorgonzola, asiago, and feta cheeses in addition to bologna lunch meat. So, the cheesemakers’ case could have appreciable affect on others’ try to get hold of GIs in america. We are going to monitor this concern.

— Adam G. Garson, Esq.

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