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A Cheese by Any Other Name: The Legal Challenge over “Gruyere”

In Custodia Legis: “On December 15, 2021, the Federal District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia upheld an administrative decision finding that, in the United States, “gruyere” is a generic term for a type of cheese, and therefore ineligible for legal protection through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Gruyère is a geographic region of Switzerland and France where people have been culturing cheese for centuries. Despite this history, the Court found that through a process sometimes referred to as genericization or “genericide” the connection between the term “gruyere” and its Swiss and French roots has nullified over time. Put another way, the Court’s decision affirmed that cheeses can be labeled as “gruyere” by American retailers, even if they originated outside Europe’s Gruyère region…”

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