The British-based food importers and distributors who had filed applications to invalidate or revoke the Cypriot state’s trademark on halloumi, and won in a recent UK court ruling, said on Monday that the Cypriot government is clueless about the halloumi business.
In a press release,John & Pascalis Ltd said they were responding to various allegations aired in the Cypriot media but also by government officials in the wake of the decision by which Cyprus lost the halloumi trademark in the UK.
The company noted that, in addition to its successful move to revoke the halloumi trademark, it was applying to revoke the EU collective mark on halloumi, and also challenging the cheese’s registration as a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product.
It said that, far from damaging Cyprus’ export market as claimed by some, it was actually helping boost the sale of halloumi overseas.
By contrast, it said, the ministry of commerce is stuck in outdated arguments about how halloumi should be manufactured, demonstrating that officials in Cyprus do not understand the cheese market.
The government, it added, in a belated attempt to challenge the company’s applications on the halloumi trademark, had contradicted itself in filings to the UK’s Intellectual Property Office (IPO).
For instance, in the documents sent to the IPO, the government had tried to argue that John & Pascalis Ltd are selling counterfeit halloumi products.
The government also stated that cheesemakers are subject to continuous checks relating to halloumi trademark standards.
But the same documents also showed that a slew of products being produced in Cyprus do not meet the ministry’s own specifications, and yet these same products are regulated by the commerce ministry and are not considered knock-offs.
Some of these products not adhering to the specifications include chilli-flavoured halloumi and halloumi light, the company said.
In the statement, the company also shot down claims made by “various experts” that the halloumi trademark could not be challenged as it is a protected product.
One thing that these “experts” are getting wrong, it said, is that they are confusing PDO products with Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSG) products.
Unlike PDO, TSG does not certify that the protected food product has a link to a specific geographical area.
The company cited Article 3 of EU Regulation 1151/12, which states that to qualify for a TSG, a food must be “of specific character” and either its raw materials, production method or processing must be “traditional.”
“Traditional” is defined as “proven usage on the domestic market for a period that allows transmission between generations; this period is to be at least 30 years.”
Moving on, the company said the Cypriot government’s insistence on what constitutes ‘real’ halloumi, based on a specific milk composition, was plainly wrong.
“There exist dairy products, which have been patented and contain all three types of milk (goat, sheep and cow) with no reference to the respective milk percentages.
“In this way, all types of halloumi can be produced, and consumers are free to choose what to buy, while at the same time securing Cypriot exports.”
The company added:
“Unfortunately, the state’s obsessions with untrue statements will most likely lead to halloumi acquiring a generic designation. Our company is making every effort to ensure that halloumi remains a Cypriot product.
“However…the government leaves us no choice but to pursue litigation so that we may rebut allegations that we are selling counterfeit products, and thus avoid being sued by major UK supermarkets whom we supply with halloumi. As always, it is the Cypriot taxpayer who will be called on to bear the consequences of these obsessions.”
Cyprus lost the halloumi trademark, having failed to respond in time to the application filed by John & Pascalis Ltd.
In its decision, the UK court stated that “evidence simply demonstrates that the [commerce] ministry was the author of its own misfortune.”