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Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Trademark on Parmesan??

When traveling internationally, one the things I enjoy doing is sampling cuisine.  Especially if it's in a new country or locale that I haven't had the chance to sample previously.

So when I read the following story...I literally laughed out loud.  Many thanks to the Wells Fargo Daily Advantage and Jason Ryan for putting this together:

Welcome to the latest international edition of "Sticks and stones will break my bones, but duly registered trademarks will never hurt me." The U.S. and the European Union have recently begun massive trade talks, and one of the E.U.'s opening salvos involves the naming of various products. By virtue of its longer history, Europe has a near-monopoly on many household food names: Champagne, bologna, prosciutto, parmesan, feta, Swiss, Muenster. The U.S., by contrast, has Philly cheesesteaks and Coney Island hot dogs, which don't seem to be in much demand in Europe, although they should be.

The sticking point is that the E.U. would like those names back, especially all the cheese names. According to the Associated Press, as part of the trade talks, the E.U. is insisting that cheese can only be called parmesan if it comes from Parma, Italy, and feta if it comes from Greece (there is no official feta region of Greece, although I suppose they could carve out a place next to the Greek Yogurt region). When American cheese makers use these names, the E.U. argues, they dilute the value of the names for their allegedly superior European counterparts. It's sort of like everyone using Kleenex to stand in for all facial tissue or, in some parts of the country, referring to all soda as Coke. I'm sure Kleenex is flattered, but the company would probably prefer that consumers use its name only to refer to its own products. Champagne is similar. Today, it's generally accepted—and protected by treaty—that only wine made from grapes grown in France's Champagne region can be called champagne. Anything else is sparkling wine.

The U.S. dairy and cheese industries, of course, reject the E.U.'s idea, as they argue that the names parmesan and feta have long since unmoored themselves from their specific locales and become more general styles of cheese making. In a rare show of bipartisanship, 55 U.S. senators agreed, signing a letter to the U.S. trade representative at the talks saying any such name-restricting provision should be rejected.

It's hard to imagine the linguistic hoops we'd have to jump through to fully satisfy the European demands. "Would you like some hard crumbly cheese bits or some soft crumbly cheese bits to go with your, let me check the order ticket … Hold on, did you order the salted, cured thinly sliced meat or the slightly less salted, slightly less cured, slightly less thinly sliced meat that rhymes with Maloney?"

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