How Cyprus lost its Halloumi trade mark
The Cypriot Ministry of Energy, Commerce and Tourism suffered a significant defeat in the UK High Court (chancery division), when its appeal was dismissed against the decision to invalidate the “Halloumi” trade mark. Worse still, is that this could have all been avoided. The Cypriot Ministry is currently undertaking an investigation into how the country was able to lose the “Halloumi” mark. It seems like they have learned a very expensive lesson, in trade mark management – leave it to the professionals.
Halloumi trade mark: the Background
By way of a background to this matter, the Cypriot Ministry had previously entrusted Clifford Chance as its legal representatives in the UK.
Indeed, Clifford Chance where on the record as its trade mark representatives 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 is unclear exactly why, but this was the beginning of the end for the halloumi mark.
When John and Pascalis Ltd made three applications to revoke and invalidate the Halloumi mark, it appears that the Cypriot Ministry did not have its house in order and the correspondence sent directly to them ended up being overlooked.
This resulted in deadlines to respond being missed and as such the mark was subsequently cancelled.
As the Halloumi brand is highly valuable to Cyprus, as a flagship product, losing the registration in the UK will have far-reaching economic consequences. As such, the Cypriot Ministry swiftly contacted Clifford Chance and an appeal was launched.
The appeal was based on an application to extend the deadline to file the relevant forms with the UKIPO. However, the appeal was dismissed.
It would be impractical for the IPO if it were not able to treat final decisions as final and by administrative action, be forced to re-open them.
In this case, failure to meet the deadlines were not due to extenuating circumstances. Rather it was a complete blunder on the part of the Cypriot Ministry who had received the papers, but not acted on them in time.
Needless to say, Clifford Chance’s offices have been restored on the register as the address for service.
However, the (e)damage may well have already been done.
The cancellation of the trademark it a big setback for the Cyprus government.
The market for halloumi in the UK is growing and Cyprus may not be able to reap what it intended to sow, with the prospect of competitors adopting the mark on its packaging.
It goes without saying that a trade mark is only as good as its management and enforcement.
Even governments can make costly mistakes which could easily be averted if left in the hands of specialists.
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How Cyprus lost its “Halloumi” trade mark was written by Lauren Waterman