In a case that has been rumbling in the European Union courts for six years, the Foundation for the Protection of the Traditional Cheese of Cyprus named Halloumi saw a victory in its case against Bulgarian company M. J. Dairies EOOD, which applied six years ago to trademark its product BBQLOUMI.
However, the fight isn’t over.
The Bulgarian company had already won a lower court decision that had cleared the way for BBQLOUMI to be registered as a trademark, but the European Court of Justice ruled last week that there is the potential for confusion in that consumers may think BBQLOUMI is made by halloumi makers. And so, it has sent the case back to the General Court.
The judgment said General Court failed correctly to apply the criteria with regard to which there is the existence of a likelihood of confusion and, in so doing, erred in law.
Halloumi was given EU protection as a registered trademark in April, 2000, but does not have PDO status, and the ruling noted the General Court must evaluate halloumi as a “collective mark” held by the halloumi foundation.
The ruling noted, “The likelihood of confusion must be understood as being the risk that the public might believe that the goods or services covered by the earlier trade mark and those covered by the trade mark applied for all originate from members of the association.”
It said that the General Court did not, in its initial ruling, “determine whether there is a risk that the general public may wrongly believe that the goods or services offered under the BBQLOUMI mark originate from an undertaking affiliated with the association which is the proprietor of the HALLOUMI mark.”
The European Court of Justice said the General Court needed to carry out a global assessment which takes account of the interdependence of the relevant factors.