Cyprus has lost its hal­loumi trade­mark for the UK due to a blunder in the Min­istry of Com­merce as it failed to re­spond to a Bri­tish court’s calls to make its case in a le­gal bat­tle.

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - COMMENT -

Com­merce Min­is­ter Ge­orge Lakkotrypis ad­mit­ted, “the whole is­sue re­vealed se­ri­ous short­com­ings and in­ac­tion on the part of the com­pe­tent depart­ment of the min­istry” and a probe was con­ducted with find­ings sent to the At­tor­ney Gen­eral.

The min­istry had failed to re­spond to the claims of Bri­tish com­pany John & Pas­calis Ltd con­test­ing the own­er­ship of the hal­loumi trade­mark.

Loss of the trade­mark regis­tra­tion in Bri­tain also puts pres­sure on Cyprus’ PDO file with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion.

“The case is part of gen­eral at­tack against hal­loumi aim­ing at the with­drawal of the file for the regis­tra­tion of the tra­di­tional cheese prod­uct as an EU Pro­tected Des­ig­na­tion of Ori­gin (PDO),” said Lakkotrypis.

He also re­vealed his min­istry has filed a re­quest to rereg­is­ter the hal­loumi trade­mark in the UK.

Fail­ure to make its case, al­lowed the UK court to award the firm the trade­mark. The fi­nal blow came on 28 Novem­ber when the court re­jected an ap­peal put for­ward by the Min­istry, stat­ing that the doc­u­ments sup­port­ing Cyprus’ case were filed with great de­lay.

“This de­vel­op­ment, although not vis­i­ble now, may en­dan­ger our fu­ture Hal­loumi ex­ports to the UK,” said Pres­i­dent of the Cyprus Dairy Pro­duc­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion, Ge­orge Petrou.

He said the blunder may lead to a com­plete catas­tro­phe if all stake­hold­ers don’t pull to­gether to face the is­sue.

“What this means is that it may be pos­si­ble for some­one in the fu­ture to pro­duce any cheese prod­uct they like and la­bel it as Hal­loumi,” said Petrou.

He ar­gued that Cyprus had two tools to pro­tect Hal­loumi ex­ports to the UK, the Hal­loumi Euro­pean Trade­mark and the UK trade­mark, which com­pli­mented each other.

“Be­cause of wrong­do­ings from the min­istry we are with just one, the Euro­pean trade­mark,” said Petrou.

He is scep­ti­cal over whether the Euro­pean trade­mark alone will suf­fice to pro­tect the coun­try’s Hal­loumi ex­ports to the UK.

“Let us not for­get that ex­ports to the UK amount to 40% of all our Hal­loumi ex­ports, bring­ing in more than EUR 80 mln to the coun­try’s econ­omy,” said Petrou.

He stressed that the loss of the UK trade­mark def­i­nitely weak­ens the po­si­tion of the dairy pro­duc­ers in Cyprus.

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He said that de­spite the ob­vi­ous blun­ders made by the min­istry, Petrou feels that the com­pany which chal­lenged the trade­mark own­er­ship of Cyprus in­tended to dam­age to the PDO file as sub­mit­ted to the EU.

The firm that chal­lenged the trade­mark own­er­ship of Hal­loumi is the big­gest im­porter of the Cypriot cheese to the UK.

“With the ap­proval of the PDO file, prod­ucts such as Chilli flavoured Hal­loumi, Hal­loumi blocks weigh­ing over 300g and other byprod­ucts will not be el­i­gi­ble to be la­belled as tra­di­tional Hal­loumi. Their aim is to have these types of prod­ucts in­cluded in the file,” said Petrou.

The Dairy Pro­duc­ers As­so­ci­a­tion would also like to see the PDO file al­tered to in­clude these prod­ucts, but the ac­tions of the UK com­pany may en­dan­ger the fu­ture of Hal­loumi ex­ports.

“We need to sit down and find a way to reg­is­ter Hal­loumi as a PDO with the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion in a way which will be to the ben­e­fit of every­one and the coun­try. If we don’t pull to­gether, we risk los­ing ev­ery­thing we have built over the past decades,” Petrou said.

The stick­ing point of the PDO file is that cur­rently, pro­duc­ers make hal­loumi with a ra­tio of 80%-20% of cow’s to goat or sheep’s milk, while the de­scrip­tion of the file says that hal­loumi should be pro­duced with a min­i­mum of 51% goat or sheep’s milk as of 2024.

An is­sue which puts pres­sure on dairy pro­duc­ers as goat and sheep milk is al­ready scarce.

Petrou sug­gested that one way out of the Hal­loumi maze is for the rub­bery cheese to be reg­is­tered as a Pro­tected Ge­o­graph­i­cal In­di­ca­tion (PGI) not a PDO.

The dif­fer­ence be­tween the two is that qual­i­ties and prop­er­ties of PDO prod­ucts are ex­clu­sively de­ter­mined by the ge­o­graph­i­cal en­vi­ron­ment, while the main fac­tor for PGI prod­ucts is a cer­tain qual­ity of fea­ture that is at­trib­ut­able to its ge­o­graph­i­cal ori­gin.

The Min­istry of Com­merce in an an­nounce­ment said it is cur­rently han­dling 79 cases in­volv­ing il­le­gal use of the Hal­loumi trade­mark and has suc­cess­fully dealt with an­other 64, but ac­knowl­edged it mis­han­dled the UK case.

“Within this frame­work, the com­pe­tent Ser­vice did not re­spond in time to the United King­dom trade­mark case,

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