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U.S. Court Affirms Gruyere is Generic

On Friday, a Virginia appeals court upheld a December 9, 2022 decision of the U.S. District Court that the term “gruyere” is generic and cannot be protected with a certification mark.

“Like a fine cheese, this case has matured and is ripe for our review,” Chief U.S. Circuit Judge Roger Gregory wrote in his opinion, which was joined unanimously by his fellow appellate judges.

This is the latest loss for the consortiums representing Swiss and French makers of the famous cheese (produced in Switzerland since the year 1115), who have been trying since 2010 to register the word “Gruyère” with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office so that its use could be limited to those cheeses produced in Europe.

On the opposing side are the U.S. Dairy Export Council, Atalanta Corporation, and Intercibus, Inc.—a cheese importer owned by the co-founder of Roth Käse USA.

“While the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a standard of identity for ‘Gruyere cheese,’ … as specifically relevant to this appeal, the FDA standard of identity does not impose any geographic restrictions as to where gruyere-labeled cheese can be produced,” the opinion states. The consortiums have vowed to continue the fight.

Susan Axelrod

Susan Sherrill Axelrod is a former editor of Culture. Her love affair with cheese began at age 12, when she bicycled to a gourmet shop to taste an exotic newcomer—French brie. She lives with her partner in midcoast Maine, where she enjoys a well-made cocktail, hiking with their dog, Lucy, and spending as much time as possible on the water.

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