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Why did the application for registration of Halloumi as a Community trade mark fail?

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18/11/2015

The General Court has dismissed an appeal by the Republic of Cyprus against the refusal of its application for registration of the mark HALLOUMI (and its Cyrillic equivalent) as a Community trade mark [1].

The Republic of Cyprus had applied for registration of the sign HALLOUMI in respect of cheese, milk and milk products. The Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM) refused the application on the grounds that HALLOUMI referred to a speciality cheese from Cyprus and therefore described, for the Cypriot public, the characteristics of the goods covered by the sign, namely the kind and geographical origin of the cheese, milk and milk product. As such, the signs were not distinctive.

The applicant had certification marks (essentially a mark providing a guarantee that the goods bearing that mark meet a certain defined standard or possess a particular characteristic) for the word HALLOUMI (and its Cyrillic equivalent) but there was no requirement for certification marks to be registered under the Community Trade Mark Regulation [2].

The General Court agreed with the OHIM analysis, finding that “the marks applied for could not be accepted for registration by reason of their descriptive meaning, for the Cypriot public, with regard to the goods in respect of which registration was sought”.

The General Court rejected the argument that the fact that the certification marks had been in place since 1992 meant that Cypriot consumers saw the signs as a guarantee of compliance with specific legal requirements rather than being simply descriptive. The General Court also reiterated that the Community Trade Mark Regulation does not provide for the registration of certification marks, which can only be registered if they meet the criteria required for registration as a Community trade mark.

For food producers an alternative to a trade mark application, may be to consider whether the product in question may benefit from “protected food status” – a topic we have written on previously.

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[1] Republic of Cyprus v OHIM, Joined Cases T-292/14 and T-293/14
[2] 207/2009/EC

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