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Gruyere Declared a Common Cheese Name, Thwarting EU

February 2, 2022

After over a year of sustained effort by NMPF and a coalition of other dairy stakeholders, the Federation celebrated a U.S. District Court ruling made public on Jan. 6 that “gruyere” is a common food name in the United States.

This victory was spearheaded by NMPF’s trade policy team, who also staffs the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN) and the U.S. Dairy Export Council’s (USDEC) trade policy activities, including USDEC’s work on this case. The team prevailed in securing a decision from Senior Judge T.S. Ellis III that upholds a 2020 U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s ruling that gruyere is a generic term that cannot be trademarked as a term exclusive to French and Swiss producers.

“Not only is this a landmark victory for American dairy farmers and cheese producers who offer gruyere, this win sets a vital precedent in the much larger, ongoing battle over food names in the United States,” said Jaime Castaneda, NMPF Executive Vice President for Policy Development & Strategy and CCFN Executive Director. “The European Union has tried for years to monopolize common names such as gruyere, parmesan, bologna or chateau. This verdict validates that we’re on the right path in our fight on behalf of American food and wine producers to preserve their ability to use long-established generic names.”

The court determined the arguments of the French and Swiss associations were “insufficient and unconvincing” and the defendants presented “overwhelming evidence that cheese purchasers in the United States understand the term GRUYERE to be a generic term which refers to a type of cheese without restriction as to where that cheese is produced.” Despite this, the Swiss and French associations filed their intent to appeal the ruling on January 7. This decision however, positions U.S. dairy farmers and cheese producers well as NMPF prepares to work with CCFN and USDEC to defend this positive ruling and the powerful it sets for other generic dairy names.