The attempt by Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC to register the trademark “Kraft Parmesan Cheese” in Ecuador did not succeed. The competent office in the South American country – after having received the formal opposition of the Consortium of Parmigiano Reggiano PDO cheese, in charge of the protection of PDO worldwide – has decided that the request of the American multinational cannot be accepted. In fact, the trademark “presents significant similarities with the Protected Denomination of Origin, taking unfair advantage of the fame, quality, and other characteristics of the latter which are exclusively due to the geographical environment in which it is produced”.
This decision is an important victory for the system of Geographical Indications in the American continent, as it reaffirms the fundamental importance of the link between product, territory, and Denomination of Origin. The decision also shows that the name ‘Parmesan’ is not necessarily generic outside the European Union, as some multinationals and trade associations would like.
The text points out that “Kraft Foods Group Brands, LLC., is a company domiciled in the United States of America, a location that has no relationship with Italy, much less with the origin of Parmigiano Reggiano PDO (the provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, and Modena and the neighboring municipalities of the provinces of Mantua and Bologna)”.
“After a three years legal battle with Kraft Foods Group Brands LLC multinational – says the Consortium’s President Nicola Bertinelli – we succeeded in averting the registration of Kraft Parmesan Cheese as a trademark in Ecuador. An action carried out in the interest of Italian producers but also of Ecuadorian consumers, who will no longer run the risk of being misled at the time of purchase”.
THE CONSORTIUM’S BATTLES
The term ‘Parmesan’ evokes the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO Denomination of Origin and, in countries where there is no protection, the average consumer can be easily deceived and led to buy a product that seems Italian but has nothing to do with Italy. This was also confirmed by Ecuadorian authorities.
Parmigiano Reggiano PDO has such strong ties with its area of origin that it would be impossible to reproduce it in any other place, even using the same production techniques.
In 2008, the European Court of Justice had ruled that only Parmigiano Reggiano PDO can be sold under the name ‘Parmesan’ within the European Union. Therefore, the use of this term to designate hard and grated cheeses that do not comply with the product specification is a violation within the EU. The judgment of the Court was also a victory for consumers who have thus obtained a strong guarantee of traceability and will be protected from misleading names on the market.
Unfortunately, the regulations protecting the Parmigiano Reggiano PDO name within the European Union do not apply in all countries of the world, opening the door to incorrect uses of the name for cheeses produced in the United States and other countries. The Consortium estimates that the turnover of fake Parmesan outside the European Union is two billion euros, equal to about 200 thousand tons of product and 15 times the total volume of exported Parmigiano Reggiano PDO.