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EU to hear Cypriot dairy industry ‘Hellim’ trademark appeal

By Mark Astley , 06-Dec-2012

EU to hear Cypriot dairy industry ‘Hellim’ trademark appeal

The European Union General Court (EGC) will hear an appeal from the Cypriot Milk Industry Association relating to a decision to allow a German company to market dairy products using the word ‘Hellim’.

The appeal relates to a EGC decision to grant German cheese and yogurt manufacturer Garmo AG a Community Trademark for the word ‘Hellim’- the Turkish word for the Cypriot cheese ‘Halloumi’.

Halloumi is traditionally made in the southern, Greece-controlled part of Cyprus, while Hellim is made in the northern, Turkish-controlled part of the island.

The Cypriot Milk Industry Association – also known as Organismos Kypriakis Galaktokomikis Viomichanias - has owned the trademark for the word ‘Halloumi’ since 2000.

In its appeal, the Association questioned the Court’s previous ruling that there was no “phonetic similarity between the signs ‘Hellim’ and ‘Halloumi’.”

It is unclear when the appeal will be heard.

Consumer confusion

Referring to the Court’s June 2012 decision, the Cypriot Milk Industry Association claims that the EGC “failed to examine in detail the distinctive character” of the word ‘Hellim’ in comparison to the word ‘Halloumi’.

“The General Court correctly confirmed that the marks share the same first letter, the combination of the letters ‘ll’ and the last letter ‘I’ and ‘m’ (albeit in reverse order).”

“However, it proceeded on the basis that, overall, any visual similarity had to be ruled out. That conclusion is contradictory. Given that the General Court confirms that there are certain similarities between the signs at issue, it cannot be concluded from this that there is no visual similarity at all,” said the appeal document.

It added that the collective-use of the word ‘Hellim’ should have been examined separately from ‘Halloumi’.

“Halloumi is the name of a cheese produced specifically by that collective and is not generally descriptive information in respect of cheese, soft cheese or similar. Halloumi cannot therefore be compared to ‘Mozzarella’, for example,” it added.

Seven year fight

The Cypriot Milk Industry Association’s fight to prevent Garmo AG attaining and maintaing a Community Trademark for the word ‘Hellim’ has been running now for more than seven years.

On 24 October 2005, Stuttgart- based Garmo AG applied to register the word ‘Hellim’ as a Community Trademark with the Office for Harmonisation in the Internal Market (OHIM).

In June 2006, the Cypriot Milk Industry Association filed a notice of opposition based on the grounds that there could be consumer confusion between ‘Hellim’ and word ‘Halloumi’.

This was, however, dismissed in March 2010 on the grounds that there was no likelihood of confusion between the words.

In May 2012, the Cypriot Milk Industry Association filed a notice of appeal with OHIM. This was again dismissed by the OHIM in June 2012.

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