Halloumi is a cheese made from sheep’s and goat’s milk, traditionally produced in the Eastern Mediterranean. It is particularly typical for the Cypriot cuisine. It is also very popular in Germany, especially among BBQ lovers, because it keeps its shape during grilling and does not run.
But where economic success blossoms, the competition is not far away either. In this case in the form of a Bulgarian manufacturer who has launched a similar product on the market under the name „BBQLOUMI” (pronounced: “BBQ-LOUMI”) and has also secured the rights to the respective Union trademark.
The opposition filed with the EUIPO by The „Foundation for the Protection of the Traditional Cypriot Cheese called Halloumi“ from its collective mark „Halloumi“ was still rejected by the Office, and the EU Court of First Instance subsequently seized could not find any likelihood of confusion either. The assessment was mainly based on the fact that ‚HALLOUMI‘ is highly descriptive for the protected goods and therefore enjoys only very weak distinctive character.
Before the European Court of Justice (ECJ), however, the Cypriot cheese producers have now achieved at least partial success: The European chief judges overturned the decision and considered the premise of the first instance to be incorrect, since a weak distinctive character of an earlier mark does not exclude the existence of a likelihood of confusion. It should therefore have been examined whether the low degree of similarity between the conflicting marks was offset by the higher degree of similarity or identity of the goods covered by them. Since the assessment made by the Court of First Instance does not satisfy the requirement of a global assessment taking into account the interdependence of the relevant factors, the Court of First Instance erred in law. (C-766/18 P).
Now the ball is back to play ground of the Court of First Instance.