French, Swiss groups can’t restrict ‘gruyere’ cheese label, US court says

French, Swiss groups can’t restrict ‘gruyere’ cheese label, US court says
Опубликовано: Saturday, 04 March 2023 18:02

Americans ‘understand “gruyere” to refer to a type of cheese, which renders the term generic,’ appeals court rules.


The term "gruyere" is a common label for cheese on the American market and can’t be reserved for a type from a specific region, a U.S. appeals court confirmed.

The name gruyere can be used to label cheeses from outside of the Gruyère region of Switzerland and France, the Fourth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Virginia, ruled on Friday, upholding a U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) ruling that gruyere can be used to describe cheese regardless of where it was made.

"Cheese — regardless of its location of production — has been labelled and sold as gruyere in America for decades," the court said in its ruling. "Cheese consumers in the United States understand ‘gruyere’ to refer to a type of cheese, which renders the term generic," it said.

The decision is seen as a victory for U.S. dairy groups and other players in the American industry. U.S. Dairy Export Council President Krysta Harden called the ruling an "outstanding result for manufacturers and farmers here in the United States," according to a Reuters report.

The USPTO had rejected a claim by two consortiums representing cheese producers from Switzerland and France for a designation that would restrict the use of "gruyere" to cheese from Gruyère itself. The industry groups filed suit over that rejection and lost 14 months ago. In Friday’s verdict, the appeals court upheld the lower court’s ruling.

The Swiss consortium, Interprofession du Gruyère, and the French group, Syndicat Interprofessionel du Gruyère, said they were "disappointed" with Friday’s ruling and would continue their efforts to protect the name, Agence France-Presse reported, citing the groups’ lawyer.

"We believe that the actual situation in the U.S. market is different from what the Court of Appeal described, and we will vigorously pursue our efforts to protect the Gruyère AOP quality product certification mark in the United States," attorney Richard Lehv said in a message sent to AFP.

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