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EU to Dutch cheese company: Copyrighting a flavor is not-so-gouda

EU to Dutch cheese company: Copyrighting a flavor is not-so-gouda
[Photo: Alexander Maasch/Unsplash]

If you were in the Netherlands this morning, you may have heard the company Levola let out a milk-curdling (s)cream. That’s because the European Court of Justice ruled that it cannot copyright a particular flavor of cheese.

According to the Telegraph, Levola, which makes the cheese and herb spread Heksenkaas, claimed that its competitor Smilde was infringing on its copyright because it made a product that tasted like it. Levola argued to the courts that its cheese flavor was protected under EU copyright.

The judges, however, weren’t fondue to Levola’s arguments. A “work’s” claim to copyright, they decided, comes down to whether its characteristics can be determined with “sufficient precision and objectivity.” Flavor is too subjective an attribute. Writes the court: “The taste of a food product will be identified essentially on the basis of taste sensations and experiences, which are subjective and variable.”

This will supposedly cause shockwaves throughout the European Union, as there have been other cases making similar copyright claims. This is the first time this high court has ruled on the matter, and will set an important precedent. Still, writes the Telegraph, the Netherlands gets to make the final decision about this case, though it must take the EU court’s decision into account.

The ruling may have been brie(f), but it was definitive. And because I have run out of terrible cheese puns, I shall end this post here.

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