Wednesday, October 26, 2005

What's in a name?

Melusina of Mel's Diner congratulates the Greeks on winning the "right" to call only feta cheese made in Greece, "feta". Boo-hiss! More Eurocracy nonsense, I say.

There's two ways to think of denomination controlle. On the one hand you can control the name by process. How do you make it? And what's it like when you've finished making it. This seems fair and reasonable to me - for example you don't want something called chardonnay to be made out of merlot grapes, it's just not truth in labelling.

On the other hand, there's the 'origin' way of naming products. It has to be made in a certain place.

Take for example, Tennessee sipping whiskey. If you thought it was whiskey made in Tennessee, you'd be wrong. If you take the tour at Jack Daniel's Distillery (which I highly recommend) they will tell you that Tennessee sipping whiskey can be made anywhere. It doesn't have to be made in the great state of Tennessee, but it does have to use the distilling - and most importantly - the charcoal filtering process that makes it what it is.

But in Europe - they favor the naming by origin. So, for example Champagne can't be made anywhere but the Champagne region of France (else it's sparkling wine) Parma ham has to be made in Parma...and now Feta has to be made in certain parts of Greece.

Britain tends to be the loser in this battle, partly because most people think it's ridiculous although some do play the game - for example Shetland lamb (what?) or Newcastle brown ale (nice town, great beer, but I thought that was the brand name) are protected products. Britain lost the battle over Sherry (that went to Portugal) and now British Sherry (oops I think I broke a law) is called British fortified wine - not terribly appetising - unless like Harvey's Bristol Cream - they no longer bottle in Bristol, but in Spain.

Other British products like Cheddar cheese or Yorkshire pudding (a rather bland puffy round thing made of flour and lard - if you're dead curious you can see a picture of what must be the world's largest Yorkshire pudding on the Young Farmers' website) are deemed 'generic' so not worthy of the demonitation controlle.

It's ridiculous. Thankfully, America doesn't abide by these rules so you can still get a Champagne made in California or a British Sherry or a Wisconsin Cheddar (or Feta).

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

When you say the US doesn't do the same thing, I would just like to point out that per capita the US has WAY more (orders of magnitude more) trademarks. McDonalds has about 1,400 at last count.

There are way more regulations on naming foods in the US than elsewhere and most have nothign to do with consumer protection and understand what product they are getting, most have to do with who can afford a lawyer to corner every conceivable phrase, name and logo.

Vol Abroad said...

No, no, no. That's not the same thing. Sure McDonalds has trademarks - McThis and McThat. That's their brand. But it's not on the item itself - a milkshake, a hamburger, fries, a salad. Anybody can make and sell those anywhere. But the UK and other places have brands, too. Branston Pickle, Scrumpy Jack Cider, or Burger King. I'm not arguing about that.

Let's go back to Tennessee sipping whiskey - that is completely associated with Jack Daniel's and my state - Tennessee. But someone else in say - Kentucky or Alabama or France can make Tennessee Sipping Whiskey if they just use a similar process and come up with a similar product (it wouldn't be quite the same product, that's why it's protected with a brand) And it won't say on the label -"Made in Tennessee" (that's why truth in labelling is important) but maybe they'll come up with a jolly good product.

When you say:
"most have nothign to do with consumer protection and understand what product they are getting, most have to do with who can afford a lawyer to corner every conceivable phrase, name and logo"

I'm not sure what you're talking about. If you're talking about patenting "discovered" products e.g. a certain plant extract - then I'm against that, too. But that's a separate issue. I think you're probably right that people are registering too many things which are in common usage - that's EXACTLY why I don't like demonination controlle. Because Feta is made in Yorkshire and Germany and Denmark, too. And Cheddar is made all over the English speaking world.

St. Caffeine said...

On the subject of whiskey, ... The U.S. does do this just north of TN. Yep, "bourbon" must be made in Kentucky, else it has to be called something else, like sourmash whiskey or sipping whiskey or ... I agree that this trend is silly, but it's not just Europe -- though they do seem to be spreading the gospel these days.

Oh, I've always heard that's true regarding Vidalia onions too, but I don't know if that's a fact.

Vol Abroad said...

NO!! That's outrageous - not that I drink much bourbon - I prefer Tennessee sipping whiskey. And the occasional Scotch

Vol-in-Law said...

"most have nothign to do with consumer protection and understand what product they are getting, most have to do with who can afford a lawyer to corner every conceivable phrase, name and logo"

That's a good description of modern Trade Mark law. As Vol was saying, there's a big difference between a trade mark, like "Nike" or "McDonalds", and a description of the nature of the product, like "cheddar" for cheese or "hamburger" for a meat patty. In the UK words like "champagne" or "sherry" were always descriptive of the nature of the product, not its origin. The EU appelation controlle system is a foreign imposition when enforced in the UK.

Anonymous said...

Let's go back to Tennessee sipping whiskey - that is completely associated with Jack Daniel's and my state - Tennessee. But someone else in say - Kentucky or Alabama or France can make Tennessee Sipping Whiskey if they just use a similar process and come up with a similar product (it wouldn't be quite the same product, that's why it's protected with a brand) And it won't say on the label -"Made in Tennessee" (that's why truth in labelling is important) but maybe they'll come up with a jolly good product.

I don't think you have a very good handle on branding or product nameing. your citing of liquors definately shows it.

Are you saying I can make Bourbon in Maine and sell it elsewhere?

A Greek cannot make perfect Bourbon and sell it in the U.S.
there are literally hundred of cases where liquor names are protected in this way. many have nothing to do with location but ratehr the long standing use of the name.

Sure McDonalds has trademarks - McThis and McThat. That's their brand.

I suggest you do a study of trademake law and trademark business before equating with brand. I am not refering to "Mac****" proucts but to phrases, slogans etc. Look on your next mcdonalds placemat.

I think it is ridiculous to complain about Grece and Feta when as I noted they are they are the smallest of offenders. If you are from the US and follow international business news you know it is US companies that seek to impose the most heavyhanded of controls on product names, not others.

As far as hamburgers, this product, in the form used today was not invented in Hamburg, but in the US.

Now I looked at the one feta product mentioned int he UK press and it has no Greek look to it, but I alos just looked in my own US supermarket at the feta prodcuts there. every singel one from Denmark and the US has combinations several of the following, Greek names, Greek typography, Greek scenery, Greek keys, and Greek symbols. One has a Greek flag!. The intent is clearly to confuse the consumer.

Vol Abroad said...

All of your complaints about overprotecting slogans and items by lawyering up is exactly what I DO NOT support.

The poor folks in Yorkshire who make Feta, proper Feta - btw - now have to repackage and rebrand and are surely the victims of the over-lawyering up that you are complaining about.

Why can't a Greek make a decent whiskey? Yes, I'm doubtful, too. But maybe.

BTW - a "hamburger" in Hamburg - is a nasty sausage, a lot like a cheap hot dog. I've bought one in the shadow of the Hamburg town hall - but gave it to my husband to eat.

Vol-in-Law said...

>>I suggest you do a study of trademake law and trademark business before equating with brand. I am not refering to "Mac****" proucts but to phrases, slogans etc. Look on your next mcdonalds placemat.<<

I teach trademark law (among other things) for a living - in fact I gave a two hour lecture on it on Wednesday to a postgraduate Masters class. I can say that Vol's knowledge of TM law is perfectly adequate. "McDonalds" certainly is a TM (both in UK & US), McDonalds has many other TMs too like "big Mac". Trade marks' purpose is to distinguish the origin of goods or services as being from one company rather than another.