Halloumi – The UK trademark saga

10th Feb 2020

Following the recent loss of the “HALLOUMI” trademark in the UK, Cyprus authorities have now successfully re-registered ownership of the local cheese mark in the UK.

 Registration to revocation

The “HALLOUMI” trademark was registered in the UK Intellectual Property Office on  22 February 2002 in the name of the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Tourism of the Republic of Cyprus. The registration covered “cheese made from sheep’s and/or goat’s milk; cheese made from blends of cow’s milk; all included in Class 29.” The Trademark was maintained and most recently renewed by the Ministry until  22 December 2027.

On  22 December 2017, a UK cheese importer, JOHN & PASCALIS LIMITED, filed an application to invalidate or revoke the Trademark on the basis of  lack of distinctive character.

An official notice dated 26 January 2018 was sent from the UKIPO to the Ministry informing them of the application and explaining that the Ministry had two (2) months to respond to the application. It was noted that, if the necessary documents were not filed within the set time frame, the Trademark would be declared invalid in whole or in part.

This deadline was missed by the Ministry. In fact, by the time the correct department of the Ministry received notice of the application for revocation, the Cancellation Division of the UKIPO had already declared the Trademark invalid and cancelled the registration. The Ministry’s lack of response was treated as an absence of opposition.

This finding was then appealed by the Ministry and a decision dated 28 November 2018, of the Business and Property Court, Chancery Division of the UK, addressed the Ministry’s failure to respond. It was held that, in the absence of any opposition from the Ministry, the Cancellation Division of the UKIPO was correct to accede to the application and declare the Trademark invalid.

A welcome re-registration

In the meantime, on 17 May 2018, the Ministry reapplied for the “HALLOUMI” mark at the UKIPO for the same class of goods as the Trademark. This application was successfully registered on the 31 January 2020 thereby correcting a serious oversight of the Ministry and mitigating the damage caused by the invalidation.

This news has been met with great relief in Cyprus as the UK is one of the biggest markets for the Cypriot made cheese, making up over 40% of halloumi exports worldwide.

Alongside this trademark adventure, the Ministry is now aiming to register halloumi as a European Protected Designation of Origin. This is proving to be more complicated than anticipated as opinions differ on the exact recipe of this traditional cheese.

This update was prepared by the newest member of our IP department, Athena Mavroyiannis.

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