Judge Rules “Gruyere” is a Common Food Name and Not a Term Exclusive to Europe

Dan Dairy, Marketing

Gruyère d’alpage N°6062 à La Tzintre, Val-de-Charmey dans le canon de Fribourg (Suisse)
By Gruyere alpage – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0

A judicial ruling has determined that “gruyere” is a generic style of cheese that can come from anywhere. The decision reaffirms that all cheesemakers, not just those in France or Switzerland, can continue to create and market cheese under this common name.

In the judicial decision made public last week, the Consortium for Common Food Names (CCFN), U.S. Dairy Export Council (USDEC), National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF), and a coalition of other dairy stakeholders prevailed in their sustained fight to preserve the ability of all actors in the U.S. marketplace to use generic terms.

Senior Judge T. S. Ellis III of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia upheld the August 5, 2020, precedential decision of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) Trademark Trial and Appeal Board.


According to the Court’s decision, the arguments of the French and Swiss associations were “insufficient and unconvincing” and CCFN presented “overwhelming evidence that cheese purchasers in the U.S. understand the term GRUYERE to be a generic term which refers to a type of cheese without restriction as to where that cheese is produced.”

With support from USDEC and NMPF, their member companies, and non-member companies that contributed to supporting the opposition, CCFN dedicated extensive time and resources throughout the appeal process to demonstrate the extensive use of gruyere in the U.S. marketplace and persuasively argue that all cheesemakers and their customers should retain their rights to continue to produce and sell gruyere in the U.S.