The Cypriot Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Tourism has this week suffered a major blow in its ongoing UK trademark protection battle for its famous cheese, Halloumi. The saga surrounding the famous Greek cheese commenced in December of last year when the company John and Pascalis Ltd made three applications to the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) to revoke and invalidate the halloumi trademarks owned by the Cypriot Ministry.
The UKIPO then contacted the Cypriot Ministry to inform them of its standard two month deadline in which to respond. Clifford Chance was on the record as trademark representatives for the Cypriot Ministry and its registered UK office address was to be used for service of documents from the UKIPO. However, in 2011, the Ministry changed this address for service to the Ministry’s own offices in the Cypriot capital Nicosia. It remains unclear as to why the address for service was changed, however, this administrative action was the beginning of the end for the Ministry’s registered halloumi mark.
The correspondence sent to the Ministry by the UKIPO ended up being overlooked. This resulted in the deadlines set by the UKIPO being missed and as such, the mark was subsequently revoked and cancelled. The Cypriot Ministry is currently undertaking an investigation into how the country was able to lose the Halloumi trademark. The outcome of this case serves a stark reminder that active brand management is critical and best left in the hands of intellectual property experts.
Food for Thought?
The Halloumi brand is highly valuable to Cyprus and losing the registration in the UK will have far reaching economic consequences for the country. When the error came to light, the Cypriot ministry immediately contacted Clifford Chance and an appeal was launched to extend the deadline to file the relevant forms with the UKIPO. However, their appeal was dismissed by the UK High Court (chancery division) on the basis that it would be impracticable for the UKIPO if it were not able to treat final decisions as final and be forced to re-open them. In this case, the Ministry’s failure to meet the deadlines were not due to the presence of any viable extenuating circumstances. Instead, failure to respond was solely the fault of the Cypriot Ministry who had received all of the relevant correspondence and papers, but not acted on them on time. The cancellation of the mark was entirely avoidable and highlights just how fatal an administrative oversight can be. Clifford Chance’s London offices have now been restored on the UKIPO’s registered as the address for service.
A black page in the history of Cypriot Halloumi
The failure to respond to the UKIPO correspondence has led to the cancellation of the mark being described as “a black page in the history of Cypriot halloumi”. It is not enough to register a trade mark and simply forget about it, owners need to be constantly prepared to defend applications made by third parties and to meet any deadlines set by the UKIPO.
A trademark is only as good as its management and enforcement and your brand is the most easily recognised intellectual property asset of your business which is why it is important to protect it.
At BPE, our intellectual property experts can talk you through the range of services we can provide including trademark registration and trademark watching. We can also act as your brand’s trademark representative on the UKIPO record. Costly mistakes such as this can be avoided if your trademark is in the hands of specialists. Please contact a member of BPE’s Commercial team should you require any further information regarding trademark management in light of this recent decision.
These notes have been prepared for the purpose of an article only. They should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice.