A hole in a cheese

08 August 2019

People who love Italian cuisine a lot and therefore often use Parmesan cheese will probably be familiar with Grana Padano. This is a cheese that resemble Parmesan cheese but does not come from the Parma area but northern Italy. Since 1996 Grana Padano has been a protected designation of origin in the European Union.

The Consortium that manages the name Grana Padano has filed the name as a trademark in the European Union for, among other things, promotion. Can a geographical name also be a trademark? The function of a brand is to distinguish products (or services) from other products. If something indicates the origin of a product then the consumer will not see the name as a trademark. An exception is if it is unlikely that the product originates from the place, eg Mont Blanc pens. In this case however, the origin is a characteristic of the product or service (the promotion of Grana Padano).

And that is exactly what the EUIPO says. The Consortium appeals the decision of the examiner. However, the Board of Appeal shares the opinion of the examiner: Grana Padano is not a common word, but it is a protected designation of origin. And it is precisely for that reason that it cannot serve as a trademark because it immediately becomes clear what the services are about. Similarly, you cannot register the name VIVALDI for concerts because everyone will understand that music from Vivaldi will be played during the concerts.

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