Cheesemakers in several European countries are up in arms after an EU court ruling that “feta” cheese should be a monopoly brand for Greece, and anyone who makes it elsewhere will have to call it something different.

Especially poignant was the reaction of an indignant Frenchman interviewed on last night’s French TV news, replayed on SBS this morning. Feta, he said, was a “generic” term –”it’s as if pizza could only be made in Italy.”

The phrase “hoist with their own petard” comes to mind, since it was the French who started this whole process with their equally absurd claim that “champagne” was not a generic term but could only apply to the product of a particular French region. Other countries, including Australia, disgracefully allowed them to get away with it.

Since then, many products have gone the same way. Soon “port” will no longer be described as such unless it comes from Portugal, and now feta is joining them. In the “intellectual property” game, ultimately everyone’s a loser.