A Yorkshire cheesemaker has taken the European Commission to court in a bid to keep the right to call its product feta.

Yorkshire Feta has been produced by Shepherds Purse Cheese, of Newsham, North Yorkshire, since 1987, the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported. Founder Judy Bell said her company was facing a bill of “tens of thousands of pounds” for a new marketing strategy to rename the product, the paper said.

Feta was granted “protected designation of origin” status in 2002, meaning that only Greek producers will be able to use the term from 2007. Shepherds Purse told the European Court of Justic that feta was not a unique product like Champagne or Parma ham but a generic name of a southern European cheese.

“Fifteen percent of our turnover comes from Yorkshire Feta,” said Judy Bell. “We are a very small company but are producing, in the summer months, about a tonne of feta a week. It will make a big hole in our business plan.”

“It’s very popular. We have never tried to pull the wool over anyone’s eyes – it’s very clear from the label that it’s Yorkshire Feta,” she said. The cheese, made from ewes’ milk, and is stocked by Tesco and J Sainsbury.

Although the British government backed the court application it has not sent a representative, the paper said. But lawyers representing the Danish and German governments are arguing the case for cheesemakers across Europe.