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Cyprus halloumi trademark officially restored in UK (Updated)

Commerce Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis

Lost for 18 months, halloumi’s trademark in the UK has been restored after an embarrassing gaffe by the commerce ministry in 2018.

On Monday, the commerce ministry announced that the UK Intellectual Property Office website on January 31, 2020 published the re-registration of the ‘halloumi’ trademark, following an application submitted by the ministry in May 2018.

It said the re-registration of the trademark was an important development, as it ensured the continued upward trend of the exports of the traditional product to the United Kingdom, irrespective of any developments with Brexit.

“The re-registration of the ‘halloumi’ brand in the UK corrects a serious mistake made by the commerce ministry and ensures Cyprus’ exports continue to rise regardless of Brexit developments,” Commerce Minister Yiorgos Lakkotrypis told the press on Monday. “This is a significant development.”

Lakkotrypis said exports of halloumi in 2018 reached €195 million and for the first 10 months of 2019 there was a 12 per cent increase in total exports, while for the UK exports increased by 14 per cent over the same period.

The trademark was lost due to the government’s failure to mount a challenge and dispatch the necessary paperwork within the set deadline after British-based company, John & Pascalis Ltd, filed three separate applications on December 22, 2017 to invalidate or revoke the trademark.

Cyprus had applied to register the trademark on December 22, 1990 and it was registered on February 22, 2002 as “Cheese made from sheep’s and/or goat’s milk; cheese made from blends of cow’s milk.”

Lakkotrypis said that while it was very important for the ministry to proceed with the registration of the halloumi trademark in all major target countries, it was also very important to register the traditional cheese as an EU Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) product, the same protection which Champagne, Roquefort and Brandy enjoy.

The minister said there would be a meeting at the presidential palace on February 5 to discuss this issue, chaired by President Nicos Anastasiades “demonstrating the importance of the issue for the government”, Lakkotrypis said.

While there would be clear benefits from Cyprus’ battle in the EU to gain a PDO for halloumi, there are also strict limitations that accompany the privilege of producing the cheese.

The PDO is supposed to be a way of protecting a product that is quintessentially Cypriot from foreign competitors. Instead, producers say, it is likely to herald the demise of Cypriot halloumi.

In November 2019 producers warned that if the European Commission were to approve Cyprus’ PDO application, it would destroy the very cheese-making industry, worth more than €200 million in exports a year, that the government designed it to protect. They argue that the stipulations in the application that the government filed would be very difficult to meet, especially in terms of the proportions of sheep/goats’ milk to cows’ milk.

Some of them are impossible: the file stipulates five types of plants the animals should graze on. Three of these plants are protected species.

Lakkotrypis said the minister of agriculture has briefed him on the most recent contacts he has had with the new European Commission on the PDO issue. Sources have told the Cyprus Mail, however, that the commission has made clear to Cyprus that changes cannot be made to the application.

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