The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth District upheld prior rulings that gruyere is a generic term for a variety of cheeses.
"The USPTO’s Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (“TTAB”) agreed with the Opposers and held that “GRUYERE” could not be registered as a certification mark because it is generic. ... Cheese consumers in the United States understand ‘GRUYERE’ to refer to a type of cheese, which renders the term generic," the court ruled.
According to the Consortium for Common Foods Names (CCFN), for more than a decade, European interests have attempted to confiscate common names to prevent non-European producers from using long-established generic terms, essentially monopolizing the ability to produce certain products for producers in limited and specific regions.
With support from USDEC, NMPF, CCFN member companies and other allies, CCFN showed the widespread use of gruyere in the U.S. marketplace, and craft the successful argument that non-European consumers and companies should retain their rights to consume produce and sell gruyere in the United States.
“This is an outstanding result for manufacturers and farmers here in the United States,” stated Krysta Harden, president and CEO of USDEC. “We’re grateful that the Appeals Court agreed that nobody owns the exclusive right to use generic terms. This sets a terrific precedent for the right to use common food names in the United States. Now we need other countries to likewise stand up for what’s right and defend that use just as strongly.”
“Today’s announcement represents a significant win for America’s dairy farmers,” said Jim Mulhern, president and CEO of NMPF. “NMPF rejects blatant European attempts to unjustly limit competition from American companies and will continue to fight alongside our allies to oppose efforts to monopolize common name foods.”