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Halloumi standing takes a further knock (updated)

A recent statement by a top European judge that a Bulgarian cheese can be called BBQloumi is a further failure of the Cyprus government to have halloumi declared a Cyprus product, the Green party said on Sunday.

On Thursday advocate general Juliane Kokott of the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) dismissed an appeal from the Foundation for the Protection of the Traditional Cheese of Cyprus named Halloumi, which owns an EU collective trademark for ‘Halloumi’.

The foundation bid to prevent Bulgarian company MJ Dairies EOO from using the word BBQloumi for its product, which features a plate of halloumi on the packing.

“This shows once more that the biggest thing we are fighting against is the government’s inability,” the Green party said.

Despite this not being a point in Cyprus’s favour, it is not a final decision. “This Opinion precedes the ruling of the Court of Justice of the European Union and it is not binding on the Court,” the state legal services said on Sunday.

“No defeat or loss to Cyprus has occurred,” it added.

“The Legal Service has continually and consistently supported the executive in trying to defend the national product in the best possible way,” it concluded.

The foundation was previously unsuccessful in stopping the registration before the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), which found the ‘Halloumi’ trademark to have only low distinctive character.

The EUIPO also said it is unlikely people will link between the foundation and the producers of BBQloumi. The foundation appealed the decision, but in September 2018, the General Court upheld the EUIPO’s earlier decision.

The foundation also argued that a likelihood of confusion exists between its own trademark and the applied-for mark due because the goods covered by both marks are identical or similar.

In her opinion, Kokott upheld the General Court’s ruling that the ‘Halloumi’ mark corresponds to the designation of a well-known Cypriot cheese.

She also said ‘Halloumi’ does not designate a specific place, but is merely associated with a place, namely Cyprus, at least in accordance with the previous case-law of the General Court.

Cyprus has been battling on two fronts to protect halloumi: in the UK, where it lost the trademark because of blunder by civil servants; and in the EU where its collective community mark is being challenged.

The EU collective wordmark Halloumi, registered on 14 July 2000, remains in force across the EU, including the UK.

Under the collective community mark, halloumi is produced only in Cyprus with certain ingredients and production methods. The UK’s secession deal also provides for the collective wordmark to be applied in the UK after Brexit.

Loss of the trademark in 2018 has not disrupted halloumi exports to the UK, according to trade figures. In fact, in the first four months of 2019 exports to the UK saw a 15.5 per cent rise.

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