Just weeks after Switzerland’s second-biggest bank was forced into a government-brokered rescue, the country’s producers of Emmentaler cheese lost a fight for exclusive European Union-wide rights to call the semi-hard cheese with big holes in it by that name.
Emmentaler is too generic a term to describe a cheese that has become a favorite across the EU, in particular Germany and France, where people no longer associate it just with Switzerland, the bloc’s lower court ruled on Wednesday, dismissing the challenge.
Emmentaler Switzerland, the producers’ association which brought the claim, didn’t succeed in disproving that “a significant quantity of cheese produced in Germany has been marketed under the name Emmentaler,” without a reference to Switzerland, the court said. In 2016, some 135,000 tonnes of Emmentaler was produced in Germany, of which “a significant part” was sold locally and not exported, the EU’s General Court said.
Urs Schluechter, director of Emmentaler Switzerland, said the association is analyzing the decision and considering whether to appeal to the European Court of Justice. This ruling impacts the attempt to secure an EU-level trademark and has no effect on the bilateral deals Switzerland has negotiated to protect local producers, he said.
Cheese is slowly becoming a favorite among EU judges dealing with trademark cases. They previously ruled in favor of producers of Spain’s Queso Manchego and the makers of Italy’s famous Parmigiano Reggiano, when they prohibited German producers from marketing their own version of the crumbly cheese as Parmesan.
The case is: T-2/21, Emmentaler Switzerland v. EUIPO (EMMENTALER).