US Dairy Industry Wins Cheese Name Case

US Dairy Industry Wins Cheese Name Case

The U.S. dairy industry scored a big legal win against French and Swiss cheesemakers trying to patent the name “gruyere” in the U.S., breaking years of EU efforts to monopolize cheese, wine, and other food markets. Virginia U.S. District Court Judge T.S. Ellis upheld a U.S. Patent and Trademark board’s 2020 ruling on an appeal by French and Swiss groups that “gruyere” is a generic cheese that can come from anywhere.

The U.S. dairy industry hailed what it labeled as a “landmark victory” and “vital precedent,” in the long-running battle with Europe over so-called “geographic indicators” like gruyere, parmesan, and chateau.

“It’s been a common practice of the EU to use GIs in a lot of their free trade agreements, which, in effect, just locks us out with what we consider to be common food names.” 

Simon Vander Woude for the National Milk Producers Federation told House Ag lawmakers earlier that there’s no way around monopolized names.

“If you take a gouda as a Garma cheese or something, nobody’s going to know what it is; They all know it’s gouda, they all know that it’s brie or whatever. And so, it has been a common practice of the EU to slap those into their free trade agreements with other countries.” 

Prompting Representative Jim Costa to propose.

“I’m suggesting that maybe we get our counterpart of the committee jurisdiction in the European Parliament to meet with ours to see if we can get past the politics and work through some of this.” 

NMPF, the U.S. Dairy Export Council, and others argued the French and Swiss already have distinctive trademark logos in the U.S. yet continue their predatory naming practices.