On Tuesday, Jaime Castaneda, executive director of the Consortium for Common Food Names and executive vice president of strategy for the National Federation of Dairy Producers, said he was “delighted” with the court ruling.
“For us, this decision is not just about Gruyère,” he said. “This goes to the biggest fight we have with Europe in which they are trying to confiscate all these names,” he said, adding that the European Union is adopting rules that benefit its own producers at the expense of producers elsewhere.
In Europe, countries are fiercely protective of their culinary heritage. The European Union says it aims to protect specific product names to promote unique characteristics linked to their geographic origin. Among the cheeses, the Roquefort must be from Roquefort-sur-Soulzon, France; Parmesan must come from the Italian regions around the towns of Parma and Reggio; and the feta must come from parts of Greece.
But the same rules don’t apply in the United States, where cheeses labeled feta, munster, or parmesan can be produced anywhere. (Roquefort, however, must be produced in France.) And the European Union cannot prevent European countries other than Switzerland and France from selling cheese called Gruyère in the United States. Indeed, from 2010 to 2020, the United States imported more cheese called Gruyère from the Netherlands and Germany than from Switzerland and France, according to data from the United States Department of Agriculture. For at least 30 years, American cheese producers have applied the “Gruyère” label to cheeses from countries such as Denmark, Egypt and Tunisia.
A spokesperson for the Swiss Agriculture Ministry, Jonathan Fisch, said in a statement that the Swiss government was disappointed with the court ruling. “The use of the term ‘Gruyère’ for a cheese produced in the United States threatens the reputation of the original product and its place in the foreign market and can only harm the whole sector,” he said. declared.
Margo A. Bagley, a professor at Emory University’s law school that focuses on patent law and intellectual property, said she agreed with the court’s ruling.
“If we are to have a vibrant and competitive market, other producers must be able to sell products under the common name that consumers recognize,” she said.