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EU Court Rules Taste Cannot Be Copyrighted


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

The European Union's highest court has ruled that the taste of a food cannot be protected by copyright.

The European Court of Justice said Tuesday "the taste of a food product cannot be identified with precision of objectivity,'' thus making it ineligible "for copyright protection.''

Dutch cheese maker Levola had argued that a rival company copied its herbed spread called Heksenkaas or witches' cheese. The company claimed Heksenkaas was a work protected by copyright and asked the Dutch courts to insist that the rival firm cease production and sale of its cheese.

But the judges ruled that unlike books, movies, songs and the like, the taste of food depends on personal preferences and the context in which the food is consumed, "which are subjective and variable.''

"Accordingly, the court concludes that the taste of a food product cannot be classified as a 'work,' and consequently is not eligible for copyright protection under the directive," the judges said.

This is not the first time the European Court of Justice had to settle disputes about food.

In July, it ruled Nestle could not trademark the four-finger shape of its KitKat chocolate bars.

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