EU court backs Bulgarian rival in Halloumi trade war

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An EU court ruled Wednesday there is no possibility of consumers confusing Cyprus’ traditional cheese Halloumi with its Bulgarian imitator BBQLOUMI in a legal fight to protect the brand.

The European Court of Justice General Court confirmed there is “no likelihood of confusion between the collective mark HALLOUMI and the sign ‘BBQLOUMI’ which serves to designate the products of a Bulgarian company”.

The “Foundation for the Protection of the Traditional Cheese of Cyprus named Halloumi” owns an EU collective trademark for the Cypriot white cheese.

It took the case to court over EU trademark infringement by the Bulgarian company but has lost the latest legal battle.

The General Court “dismisses the Cypriot association’s action by holding that EUIPO was correct in finding that there was no likelihood of confusion between the signs at issue”.

It said the  “likelihood of confusion presupposes both that the marks at issue are identical or similar and that the goods or services which they cover are identical or similar”.

Concerning the similarity of the signs in question, the General Court ruled “the signs at issue share the element ‘loumi’ which has weak inherent distinctiveness for a large part of the relevant public who will understand it as a possible reference to halloumi cheese”.

“Given that the attention of the relevant public will be drawn more to the initial part of that word element, namely the part ‘bbq’, owing to its position, rather than to the final part ‘loumi’, that latter part contributes very little to the distinctiveness of the mark applied for.

Thus, the low degree of similarity of the signs in question is unlikely to contribute to the existence of a likelihood of confusion.”

Finally, the General Court holds that there is “no likelihood of confusion for the relevant public as regards the commercial origin of the goods bearing the mark applied for”.

The collective wordmark “Halloumi” was registered on 14 July 2000 and remains in force across the EU and the UK.

Under the collective community mark, halloumi is produced only in Cyprus with designated ingredients and production methods.

Cyprus is attempting to block copycat makers of its biggest export.