There are situations where the location of a product matters. In order for a manufacturer or producer to label sparkling wine as champagne, for example, it must come from the Champagne region of France. A cheesemaker out of Europe tried to extend these types of protections to cheese when they argued only cheese from the Gruyere region of Switzerland and France can receive the label gruyere.
How did this case unfold?
The case began when a Swiss cheesemaker applied for trademark protections. The Trademark Trials and Appeals Board denied the application, so the cheesemaker filed a lawsuit with the United States District Court in Virginia.
What was the argument?
Gruyere cheese is known as a rather mild cheese that melts well, making it great for dishes like fondue. As noted in an article by AP, the cheesemaker argued the cheese should be treated like champagne. The cheesemaker argues the term gruyere should only apply to cheese made from the Gruyere region in Switzerland. Competitors counter that the term “gruyere” has been associated with mild, well-melting cheeses from various regions for so long that it is now associated with a generic label for these types of cheeses.
What did the court decide?
The judge did not agree with the cheesemaker. Ultimately, the court stated the record was clear that although the term “gruyere” in the past may have referred exclusively to cheese from Switzerland and France, decades of production and sale of cheese labeled as gruyere since then that did not come from this region eroded the connection. Thus, the term “gruyere” can be used for cheese that does not come from that specific area.