Why A US Judge Just Denied The Protected Status Of Gruyere Cheese

Just as true champagne can only come from the Champagne region of France, the Swiss claim that authentic Gruyère can only come from their Gruyère region (via Acquistapace's). We say "claim," because the French disagree. They've fought for the right to have prestigious marks of quality on their Gruyère, even though it has a different taste and appearance than the Swiss version. According to The Guardian, both France and Switzerland received an Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC), which is granted to "regional products with specific characteristics and taste produced with traditional methods." Both countries accepted this honor and were peacefully producing Gruyère until France sought out an even higher honor that is recognized internationally.

The Swiss complained about this power move from the French, citing that they have a longer history of producing Gruyère. It's almost the equivalent of a child saying that they can use the swing for all of recess because they got there first. It may fly on the playground, but not in a capitalist society that is apparently fueled by Gruyère. While the Swiss did emerge victorious in their battle over this beloved cheese 11 years ago, both countries are now facing a new cheesy challenger: the United States.

'Americans don't associate that cheese with that town'

With all the drama that surrounds it, there should really be a reality show starring Gruyère cheese. According to Food & Wine, the drama in the U.S. started last year when the associations that represent Swiss and French Gruyère were denied trademark protection for the word "Gruyere," so they filed a lawsuit. The U.S. Dairy Export Council explained in their blog that prior to the trademark hearing, attorneys for Switzerland's Interprofession du Gruyère went as far as to send "threatening cease-and-desist letters to U.S. manufacturers that used the term gruyere." These threatening letters, shockingly enough, did not help the trademark situation or the lawsuit that followed.

In his ruling on the lawsuit, U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis did not deny Gruyère's historical significance in France and Switzerland, but argued that American consumers do not take the background of the cheese into account when they buy it. According to the Associated Press, his ruling reads: "It is clear from the record that the term GRUYERE may have in the past referred exclusively to cheese from Switzerland and France. However, decades of importation, production, and sale of cheese labeled GRUYERE produced outside the Gruyère region of Switzerland and France have eroded the meaning of that term and rendered it generic." 

TLDR: Americans don't associate that cheese with that town.