On 26 March 2013 the High Court handed down judgement in FAGE UK Limited v Chobani UK Limited which proved to be a classic passing-off case, only this time the subject was yoghurt. The question before the High Court was whether the phrase ‘Greek yoghurt’ carried sufficient reputation and goodwill as a distinctive yoghurt made in Greece to warrant protection. Whilst the production of yoghurt can be traced back some 15,000 years, FAGE was undoubtedly assisted by the fact that all yoghurt sold in the UK during the last 25 years labelled ‘Greek yoghurt’ was strained yoghurt made in Greece.
On 4 March 2013 the European Commission published the results of a study undertaken on the value of Geographical Indication (GI) food products. The results provide some insight into the overall impact of GI products which are considered here from the perspective of the UK.
A GI is the name of a product where a given quality, reputation or other characteristic of the product is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. It is a type of intellectual property right that can apply in the EU to different types of products under one of four schemes.
Health claims on food labelling and in advertising have become important marketing tools. The EU believes consumers expect accurate information about products and, in particular, any health claims made. A ‘health’ claim is any statement about a relationship between food and health. Food producers who claim health benefits for their products need to take note.
The debasement of ordinary words that have no legal protection has been common enough. Much has been written about the abuse of ‘real’ ‘homemade’, ‘natural’, ‘local’ and ‘artisan’ being but a few examples. Only a few days ago Marion Nestle wrote in The Atlantic posing the question ‘Is 'Natural' the Most Meaningless Word on Your Food Labels?’ Although it was perhaps Dominos Pizza that took the abuse of ‘artisan’ to its most cynically exploited heights in launching ‘Dominos Artisan Pizza’ as “artisan pizza without the artisan price” while declaring “We’re not Artisans” on the box.