Vanderbilt Law Review


Ivy Doster

First Page



In many grocery stores, shoppers must look in two places to find cheese. The first cheese section is usually near the dairy case; the second is often a specialty cheese case located in the produce department. Why make harried supermarket shoppers rush back and forth between two locations to find what they need for a fondue? The most noticeable difference between the cheeses in the two cases is probably the price: cheeses in the specialty case are generally much more expensive. A second difference is the packaging: many cheeses in the dairy aisle are pre-grated, pre-shredded, or pre-sliced and individually wrapped, or pre-cut into stars or dinosaurs; most cheeses in the specialty case, however, are sold in wedges or blocks. The most important difference between the cheeses in the two locations, however, can be found by reading the labels closely. Almost all cheeses found in the dairy aisle are produced in the United States, so even cheeses labeled "Swiss," "Parmesan," "Gorgonzola," or "Feta" (cheeses which are traditionally produced in European countries) are actually made in the United States. The specialty cheese case, on the other hand, is where most imported cheeses are kept; here a shopper is more likely to find Parmesan and Gorgonzola cheeses made in Italy or Feta cheese from Greece. Does it matter whether two cheeses sold under the same name are produced in different countries? The answer to this question is central to the current battle between the United States and the European Union regarding intellectual property protection for agricultural products. The EU has proposed an agreement whereby U.S. producers will not be permitted to label their products using names of foods that reference the food's area of origin in EU member countries. If the EU proposal is accepted, U.S. producers will no longer be able to label many products using traditional names such as "Gorgonzola," "Feta," or "Parmesan."