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European cheese organizations can’t squeeze out a certification


A federal appeals court has shredded the argument that gruyere cheese ought to be officially labeled and protected as “Gruyere,” and should only be used on labels of cheese that is produced in the Gruyère region of Switzerland and France.

A Swiss consortium, Interprofession du Gruyère, and a French consortium, Syndicat Interprofessionel du Gruyère, together filed an application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to register the word “Gruyere” as a certification mark.

The U.S. Dairy Export Council, Atlanta Corp. and Intercibus Inc. opposed the certification mark because they believe the term is generic and therefore ineligible for such protection, according to the decision filed Friday in the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia.

A district court dismissed the case, agreeing that gruyere is considered generic among U.S. cheese consumers, who deem the product just one kind of cheese among the cheddar and mozzarella.

In affirming, the appeals court compared the case to “a fine cheese” that has “matured and is ripe for our review.” Its ruling stated the consortiums “cannot overcome what the record makes clear: cheese consumers in the United States understand ‘Gruyere’ to refer to a type of cheese, which renders the term generic.”