Thursday, September 8th 2005 - 21:00 UTC

Peru and Chile squabble over pisco and pudding

The Peruvian embassy in Santiago is beginning legal actions to impede the registry of the trade mark “Suspiro Limeño”, (Lima sigh), a traditional dessert in the country's capital Lima.

The decision follows Chilean company Soprole request before the Chilean Industrial Property Office to register the trademark "Lima sigh".

In an official release the embassy said that the Peruvian Foreign Affairs ministry with the support from the Peruvian Intellectual Property Protection Office "will coordinate efforts to ensure a successful defence of the country's interests".

Peru and Chile are already involved in the "pisco" trademark controversy, a popular alcoholic drink in both countries but which Peruvians allege its origin dates back to colonial times.

"Chileans have a fixation with Peruvian products. They're also trying to take pisco from us, it's regrettable" remarked Peru's Foreign Trade minister, Alfredo Ferrero.

Production Minister David Lemor went even further calling the incident "a provocative audacity that a Chilean company wants to appropriate the name of a Peruvian dessert, as is happening with pisco, though they know full well they are Peruvian".

Sociologist Isabel Alvarez who specializes in Peruvian cuisine said that "Lima sigh" dates back to the 19th century and represents a local adaptation of "manjar blanco," a caramel-like confection introduced by the Spaniards.

"It's as if the Chileans wanted to take a child that isn't theirs and later disguise him with another name to sell him abroad", stressed Ms. Alvarez of Soprole's attempt to register the trademark.

The "New American Dictionary of Cuisine" published in Paris in 1868, includes an entry for the Lima sigh, describing it as a "manjar blanco" made with egg yolks and topped with dry meringue that was served as a dessert in the Peruvian capital.

Teresa Mera from the Peruvian Intellectual Property Protection Office argues that Lima sigh is a "generic" name, and can't be granted as trademark.

"This dessert can be manufactured by any person, company anywhere in the world; it's like registering a dish. What can be done is give a trade name to the product itself, but not the trademark registry".

However, apparently a similar attempt by the same company in 1997 was rejected by the Chilean Industrial Property Office. More recently another request by a Chilean company to register a new line of alcoholic drinks with the name of the capital of the Inca empire Cuzco, was also thrown out by the Office.

But tempers are still running high. Last July 28, Lima's main square fountain was filled with 2.000 litres of pisco to celebrate Peru's Independence Day and a ruling by a United Nations office declaring the Andean liquor a product of Peru, giving the country crucial arguments in its long dispute with Chile over who owns rights to the strong drink name.

Johnny Schuler head of the Peruvian Pisco Commission said that the right to the pisco designation granted to Peru by the World Intellectual Property Organization "is an important accomplishment, because it opens the door to settling our dispute with Chile in the World Trade Organization".

According to the WIPO ruling, the name pisco may only be applied to the liquor that growers in southern Peru distil from fermented grape juice.

Pisco, the grappa-like beverage that Peru has formally adopted as the essential ingredient in the "pisco sour" cocktail it serves at all official events at home and abroad, can be traced to Spain's arrival in the New World in the 16th century.

Pisco, which in the Quechua Indian language means "little bird," takes its name from the port located 300 kilometers south of Lima from where the grape distilled produce was shipped to Spain and various South American countries in the 16th century

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