The cheese’s ash line to be PDO-protected alongside name

The Paris Court of Appeal ruled that the appearance of the French semi-soft cheese Morbier – which features a horizontal black line of edible ash – is ‘sufficiently specific’ to be protected under the PDO.

The ruling mirrors a prior European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision, which read that a PDO should not only protect the name of a product but its appearance as well, setting a precedent that would allow producers of PDO cheese to take action against competitors who marketed products that were visually similar but had non-PDO names.

In the case of Morbier, only cheese producers based in France’s Jura mountains can manufacture and sell the ash-striped semi soft cheese under the PDO. Others, who operate outside the specific geographical area, cannot produce any versions that mimic the cheese’s specific appearance, even if these products are sold under another name.

How the dispute went down

The recent judgement is the latest in a long dispute between France’s Interprofessional Syndicate for the Defense of Morbier Cheese and Société Fromagère du Livradois SAS.

In 2013, the association sued the company arguing that the manufacturer sold cheese that featured Morbier’s trademark black horizontal stripe despite not being based in the PDO area. This created unfair competition, the body argued, since consumers could be led to believe they were buying the authentic cheese due to its appearance.

But the court of first instance decided the PDO only covered the name, not the appearance of the product – and the cheese sold by Société Fromagère du Livradois SAS was not sold as ‘Morbier’.

This decision was then appealed by the association before the Court de Cassation, which in turn called on the ECJ to interpret Article 13 of two regulations that dictate how EU agricultural products are protected and how their unique traits are communicated to consumers.

The ECJ ruled that producers outside the PDO area must not recreate ‘the shape or appearance characterising…

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