Don’t Cheese It: Cyprus Gets Halloumi Trademark Back

In this photo taken Wednesday Dec. 11, 2019, Cyprus' halloumi cheese is seen roasted on a plate at "Riverland" farm in Kampia village near Nicosia, Cyprus. Cyprus' halloumi cheese, with a tradition dating back some five centuries, is the island nation's leading export. (AP Photo/Petros Karadjias)

NICOSIA – After losing the right to the cherished trademark to its so-called melt resistant halloumi cheese that’s a favorite for grilling, like Greece’s saganaki, Cyprus has won it back after being able to again register it with the United Kingdom.

The trademark was lost in 2018 when the island government’s Commerce Ministry failed to reply to a UK court requesting a response over the cancellation of the Halloumi trademark, putting Cypriots up in arms.

Commerce Minister George Lakkotrypis told CyBC radio confirmed the good news, telling CyBC radio that Cyprus had reapplied to register the trademark which it lost in May 2018.

It was notified Jan. 31 that halloumi had been registered by the British Intellectual Property Office, the minister said, after it had been lost when ministry officials failed to contest an application by a British company John & Pascalis.

The company, owned by UK Cypriots, is one of the largest halloumi importers in Great Britain. “We corrected that serious mistake,” said Lakkotrypis, the Cyprus Mail reported.

The UK, which ruled Cyprus as a colony, is the biggest market for the popular cheese, taking in some 40 percent of halloumi exports generating around 80 million euros ($88.51 million) a year in sales.

The government, however, is still looking into how the trademark had been lost and is investigating, with findings going to the Attorney-General’s office, the paper said, with even President Nicos Anastasiades getting involved and demanding answers.

Cypriot authorities have spent years trying to get the European Union to recognize halloumi, or hellim in Turkish, as a traditional product of the east Mediterranean island nation. Receiving the EU’s top quality mark — the Protected Designation of Origin — would mean only halloumi made in Cyprus could be marketed abroad under that name.

The nation’s farmers and producers want the Cyprus-specific designation to keep makers of inferior cheeses in other countries from claiming a slice of their market of over 200 million euros ($222 million.)

Cypriot producers have said that demand from overseas is projected to hit new highs in the next few years, thanks to heat-tolerant halloumi’s growing popularity as a meat alternative, not to mention it’s so delicious you can’t stop eating it.

Ethnically divided Cyprus’ complex politics so far have stymied the bid to protect the halloumi name. The difficulty lies in a dispute over how to lawfully get cheese made in the country’s breakaway northern third to foreign markets.

The self-declared Turkish Cypriot state is recognized only by Turkey and goods produced there cannot be exported directly. Cyprus is a member of the EU while the occupied northern third is not.

(Material from the Associated Press was used in this report)

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