The Republic of Cyprus has regained the halloumi trademark in the UK after almost two years of intense efforts by officials to correct an administrative blunder.
Commerce and Energy minister Giorgos Lakkotrypis, who went on state radio Monday morning, confirmed news that “a serious mistake has been corrected” referring to the government's loss of the halloumi trademark in the UK back in May 2018.
Lakkotrypis explained that the state had been waging a legal battle to undo what was described as an oversight by the Republic.
In late 2018, it emerged that two official letters had fallen through the cracks after being sent six months earlier from the UK’s Intellectual Property Office regarding a contested case of halloumi, the Cypriot traditional cheese also known as hellim. As a result, the Cypriot government missed a deadline and a chance to defend a challenge launched by UK-based attorneys.
It was never clarified if the oversight was due to an administrative blunder or political interests, with Lakkotrypis saying an investigation was still ongoing but very complicated
A British High Court judge, who later rejected an appeal filed against the IPO by Cypriot authorities, said the Greek Cypriots were the “authors of their own misfortune.”
But Lakkotrypis, who was blamed in the media for dropping the ball, vowed to get the trademark back, saying at the time that the UK market was still protected by an EU-wide trademark.
It was never clarified whether the oversight was due to an administrative blunder or sinister political motives, with Lakkotrypis saying he was of the understating that an investigation was still ongoing but very complicated.
Officials argued that the loss of the trademark had not been serious, pointing out that the Republic of Cyprus owned the trademark in other countries. Lakkotrypis also admitted on Monday that “it can’t be that difficult to prove that the halloumi trademark is associated with our country.”
The obtained trademark in the UK, now valid for ten years, will have to be renewed in what Lakkotrypis described as a “routine procedure.”
According to the minister, it was very important for Cyprus to get the trademark in the UK because halloumi was protected in that country only up until Brexit.
Halloumi, the Greek Cypriot name of the popular semi-hard cheese that can be grilled, is also known by its Turkish Cypriot name Hellim. It is particularly popular in Britain but has increasingly been showing up all over the world as a gourmet cheese product.
President Nicos Anastasiades has called for a special meeting on halloumi this Wednesday, amid new rumours in the media that local interests were still clashing over a Protected Designation of Origin application for halloumi.
Typical PDO applications take ten months on a technical basis. But the halloumi case has had many false starts in previous years as it was linked to a solution to the Cyprus problem and the politics of a divided island that came along with it.
The administration has been scrambling to get local producers and farmers on board, hoping that a PDO application would serve as an official EU badge of authenticity for the traditional Cypriot halloumi cheese against imitation products.
But in addition to disagreements among Greek Cypriot stakeholders, Turkish Cypriots in the north have also expressed concern over the classification of halloumi or hellim, with the main dispute based largely on how to get the Turkish Cypriot product to global markets without violating PDO rules filed by the Republic of Cyprus in the south.