The Gruyère complexity

News arrives that the term Gruyère is a generic term, as decided by a US District Court, is being appealed by the plaintiffs, the Swiss Interprofession du Gruyère and the French Syndicat Interprofessional du Gruyère, the US-based publication, Cheese Reporter, notes. Defendants in the case include the International Dairy Foods Association and the US Dairy Export Council. So, it is a sticky wicket, as the Brits would say.

In 2015, the former parties filed an application for a certification marque with the US Patent and Trademark office for the term Gruyère, to certify that it originated in the Gruyère region of Switzerland and France. Which IDFA and USDEC countered.

Existing US laws say you can use the word Gruyère on cheese wherever it’s produced. The US Food and Drug Administration’s standard of identity says there is “strong evidence” that Gruyère is a generic term and indicates a type of cheese rather than where it is made. This was back in 1977.

There is also the issue of European exports to the US being labelled as Gruyère even though they’re not from the region. And American consumers don’t expect Gruyère to be region-specific, just that it be a certain type of cheese, the judge ruled.

This one example of a cheese and its permutations globally, explains why trade deals take such a long time to hammer out between countries. One can see the point of a US maker of cheese wanting to explore new types of cheese, or supply a local market with its version of a European classic. Or even European makers seeking to make cheeses for a market where the PDOs of the EU are not in play. But I can also see why a PDO cheese maker body in Europe will try and defend a marque that has been very hard won through certification and registering for it.

So I’m not really the one to ask on this. I do like a good Gruyère.

Related content

Leave a reply

Dairy Industries International