A crock of French onion soup is topped with a mass of melted cheese dripping down the sides—it has to be gruyere cheese to be authentic. But does authenticity also require that the cheese be from France or Switzerland?
About a dozen American companies and industry associations are trying to hold on to the right to have their cheeses called gruyere and piled atop French onion soup or stuffed a croque monsieur. There’s an application in front of the Patent and Trademark Office that would result in taking the name “gruyere” away from American made cheeses.
Two associations—one French and one Swiss—are trying to register a certification mark with PTO, which would let them control who gets to use the name gruyere for cheese, and they would give that right only to cheese made in certain regions of France and Switzerland.
The American entities in opposition are saying that gruyere is a term for a type of cheese and they are fighting the notion that it implies any specific geographic origin.
The certification mark application was filed in September 2015 by the Syndicat Interprofessionnel du Gruyere of France and the Interprofession du Gruyere of Switzerland. The application was published for opposition a year later, and at the end of January, several American entities, including the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Finlandia Cheese Inc. and Wegmans Food Markets Inc., filed their objections.
The owner of a certification mark doesn’t use the mark itself, but gets to set the rules for who can use it. They often require that a product come from a defined area, such as Idaho potatoes and Napa Valley wines.
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