March 30, 2021
BBQLOUMI -v- HALLOUMI - another blow is dished out to the Cypriot cheese
BBQLOUMI -v- HALLOUMI - another blow is dished out to the Cypriot cheese

It seems like the Foundation for the Protection of the Traditional Cheese of Cyprus named Halloumi (the 'Foundation') has received another grilling for enforcing its HALLOUMI mark against a Bulgarian company, M. J. Dairies EOOD in the recent decision: Foundation v M.J. Dairies EOOD (BBQLOUMI) T-328/17. This case confirms that where an earlier mark is an EU collective mark, it is subject to the same basic requirements of distinctiveness and likelihood of confusion as traditional trade marks.

The Background

The dispute started in 2014. M. J. Dairies EOOD applied for an EU figurative trade mark, BBQLOUMI, in classes 29 (including cheese and similar cheese-related goods), 30 and 43. This was soon opposed by the Foundation based on their EU collective work mark HALLOUMI designating class 29: cheese.

The opposition was rejected - EUIPO held that there was a low likelihood of consumer confusion between the two marks because the earlier mark HALLOUMI was weak in its inherent distinctiveness, and subsequent appeal was dismissed. The Foundation sought annulment of the decision on Art 8(1)(b), but the action was dismissed by the General Court. The Foundation argued that the Board of Appeal had incorrectly characterised the meaning and effect of EU collective marks and wrongly considered that their mark was generic - the General Court found that 'halloumi' denoted a type of cheese but not its belonging to anyone of a special association.

The Foundation appealed the original judgment to the CJEU, who offered a glimmer of hope by noting that the General Court was wrong to reach their decision on the presupposition that where an earlier mark had weak distinctiveness, the existence of a likelihood of confusion must be ruled out as soon as it was established that the similarity of the marks at issue did not permit such a likelihood to be established. The CJEU instructed that a global assessment of likelihood of confusion should have been carried out and reverted the matter back to the General Court.


The General Court largely stood by their original views. However, this time round they considered distinctiveness of the earlier mark in relation to the relevant public and whether they would consider that goods/services covered by an earlier (collective) mark and those covered by another mark all originated from members of the same association.

Further, whilst the General Court reiterated that there was no likelihood of confusion for class 29 'meat extracts' or class 43, there was similarity to varying degrees for the remaining goods and this meant that likelihood of confusion could not be ruled out from the outset. And so, a global assessment must be carried out.

In working through their assessment, the General Court held that there was no risk of consumers being misled about the origin of the goods, even for class 29 goods covering cheese and cheese-related goods. Even if consumers encountered BBQLOUMI and saw the figurative element as grilled halloumi cheese, they would not establish a link between that mark and the earlier mark, they would simply link BBQLOUMI with barbecue.


The distinctiveness of collective marks cannot be assessed any differently to the assessment done in relation to the distinctiveness of 'ordinary' trade marks. The inherent distinctiveness of HALLOUMI was held to be low and enhanced distinctiveness was not proved. Further, 'halloumi' was determined to be a generic term for a type of cheese, not an indication of origin.

However, this decision contrasts with Foundation for the protection of the traditional cheese of Cyprus named Halloumi v Babel Sajt Kft [2020] EWHC 2858 (Ch). In Babel the English High Court held that it is 'possible for halloumi to designate both a cheese and a product produced by a member of the Foundation'. The court further held that the average consumer would include trade consumers, such as supermarkets, who would pay particular attention to the origin and manner of production of goods, something the General Court did not seem to consider here.

This current case confirms that a global assessment of likelihood of confusion must be undertaken for collective and ordinary marks alike. The ultimate result here was disappointing for the Foundation but perhaps they failed to properly argue who the relevant consumer is for the General Court to consider in its global assessment. The importance of this cannot be understated as it could have led to a different result mirroring Babel.

Food & Drink /  Trademarks /  Disputes

Found this article interesting today?
Send us your thoughts: