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Don Quixote unsaddled in landmark EU cheese dispute

Europes hallowed protections for food names got even tougher on Thursday when the EUs top court rule..

Europes hallowed protections for food names got even tougher on Thursday when the EUs top court ruled that images of Don Quixote were duping consumers into believing they were buying high-status Spanish sheeps cheese.

The EUs system of geographical indications is worth billions of euros to luxury brands such as Bordeaux wines and Parma hams, which want to stop rivals from trading off the cachet of their names. Thursdays case on Spanish cheese is significant because it expands those defenses for top-end producers to images, as well as names.

The decision concerned a Spanish cheese company that used imagery associated with Miguel de Cervantes fictional knight, Don Quixote. Those illustrations triggered complaints from makers of queso manchego, an EU-protected sheeps cheese from the region of La Mancha, Don Quixotes home province.

Even though the cheesemaker Industrial Quesera Cuquerella is based in La Mancha, its cheeses do not qualify for protection as quesos manchegos because of the strict production requirements needed for EU brand protection. The company was taken to court in Spain by the Spanish council that regulates the queso manchego business — but won twice. (The regulatory council of queso manchego also uses Don Quixote as its logo.)

The Court of Justice of the EU, however, has now said the Industrial Quesera Cuquerella cannot use windmills, Don Quixote, or his scrawny horse Rocinante on its products as they “constitute an unlawful evocation” of the protection held by rival cheeses.

Europes hallowed protections for food names get even tougher | Jack Taylor/Getty Images

The judgment said the crucial factor was whether the Don Quixote images are “capable of triggering directly in the consumers mind the image of the product whose designation is protected.”

But the court judgment leaves that up to the Spanish supreme court to determine, taking this CJEU decision into account. “The national court will have to satisfy itself that those figurative signs, in particular those with an illustration of a knight similar to the usual depictions of Don Quixote de La Mancha, a bony horse and landscapes with windmills and sheep, arRead More – Source