The Strategist

EC bans US cheesemakers from selling US-made 'gruyere' to the EU

01/21/2022 - 04:26

US cheesemakers who have won the right to use the protected geographical indication of Swiss gruyere cheese will not be able to supply such products to the EU.

In early January, a court in the US ruled that the name ‘Gruyere’ was perceived by US consumers as a particular kind of cheese, so it could not be registered as a trademark for products from specific regions in Switzerland and France. Producers in the US are thus free to use this geographical indication on their products, regardless of its origin.

The European Commission explained that the name ‘Gruyere’ is protected within the European Union, as well as in many countries with which the EU has relevant bilateral or multilateral agreements.

‘Gruyere’ is a protected appellation of origin - a cheese from France and from Switzerland. The appellation and intellectual property rules are territorial in nature. They apply only to the territory concerned," said the EC representative.

He added that the US Patent and Trademark Office, like any other entity in the world responsible for intellectual property, adheres to the principle of territoriality. "That is, the protected geographical indication of a product should only be assessed in relation to US territory, this also follows from international obligations through the World Trade Organisation," the European Commission explained.

"Thus, US operators cannot promote and sell US-produced gruyere-labelled cheese within the European Union or countries with which we have agreements. If this does happen, the competent authorities would have to demand that the product be withdrawn from sale or renamed. This could even be challenged in national courts," the European representative concluded.

According to the European media, the Swiss and French cheese makers intend to appeal against the decision of the American court. They are sure that the real "Gruyere" can only be made from natural local ingredients following traditional recipes. Only the observance of all these conditions guarantees the quality of the product. Therefore the cheese made in the USA cannot replicate the unique taste of ‘gruyere’ brewed in Switzerland or France.