Can You Copyright the Taste of Food?

14 November, 2018

This is What's Trending Today.

The European Union's highest court has dismissed an attempt by a Dutch cheese maker to copyright its cream cheese. The ruling means that a person or company cannot legally own the taste of food and prevent others from copying it.

Dutch company Levola Hengelo makes a cheese spread called "Heksenkaas," or witches' cheese. The company claimed that cheese maker Smilde copied its product with another cheese spread called "Witte Wievenkaas," or white women's cheese.

FILE - A man walks by a cheese stall at a market in The Hague, Netherlands.
FILE - A man walks by a cheese stall at a market in The Hague, Netherlands.

So, Levola took its competitor to court. The company said the competitor's cheese was a copy of its product and violated its copyright of the cheese's taste.

The Dutch court asked for guidance from the European Court of Justice, or ECJ. The ECJ judges said, "The taste of a food product is not eligible for copyright protection."

They said unlike works of writing, photography, movies and music, the taste of a food product cannot be identified with "precision and objectivity."

The judges added that the taste of food depends on personal taste and experience.

This is not the first time that the court had to rule on a dispute about food. Last July, the ECJ ruled that Nestle could not trademark the four-finger shape of its Kit Kat chocolate bars.

Michel Wildenborg of Levola disagreed with the cheese ruling. He said, "We find it a pity and incorrect that the creative expression in food and perfumes do not have copyright protection and that everyone can make a copy of it."

And that What's Trending today.

Hai Do adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on Reuters, Associated Press and other news reports. Mario Ritter was the editor.

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Words in This Story

eligible –adj. able to do or receive something

precision –n. the quality of being exact or accurate

trademark –n. something that identifies a particular company's product and cannot be used by another company without permission

pity –n. something that causes sadness or disappointment