Trade Marks are becoming more and more important to businesses, as highlighted by the Times’ report on an attempt to secure a protected “appellation of origin” for a traditional version of Red Leicester cheese.
Appellations of origin are nothing new, and are perhaps best summed up by the fact that “Champagne” may only be used to describe a sparkling white wine produced in certain areas of France on the basis that the word itself is a special “mark” which can only be used by producers in a certain locality, with Parma Ham and Melton Mowbray pork pies being other examples. The idea behind obtaining an appellation is to render production of a product outside a certain location illegal.
Based on these decisions, a number of Leicester Cheesemakers have applied for recognition of the tem “Red Leicester”. However, one major issue is driving a wedge between them; they can’t agree on what the recipe for the cheese should be. Long Clawson, one of the Country’s biggest producers of cheese, add a “starter culture” to the cheese based on a Swiss method, whilst David and Jo Clark – the producers of Sparkenhoe Leicester Cheese – only use a traditional method utilising raw milk which has seen their product become very popular in specialist delis and with gourmets around the country.. The Clarks claim that the additive makes the final cheese sweeter and nuttier.
After a surge in popularity, local Councillor Matthew O’Callaghan championed the joint application for the appellation, however he now admits that the inability to agree upon the recipe has proved impossible to overcome.
Appelations of origin can be very important and extremely valuable to local producers in a particular area. Unlike Champagne, however, there are a huge number of ways in which a cheese can be produced and as such it’s very difficult to be completely sure over what you are trying to protect. Appellations come under the remit of trade mark law, which provides that the be granted, an appellation of origin must have “a quality and characteristics which are due exclusively or essentially to its geographic environment”. In this case, adding an ingredient widely used in the manufacture of swiss cheese appears to have watered down the application.