On your marks Iceland vs Iceland

  • Iceland fights Iceland over trade mark
  • Icelandic companies may be prejudiced

Iceland, the British frozen supermarket chain, founded in 1970, is continuing its battle with Iceland, the Nordic island country, first settled by humans in 874 AD, over the name.

Iceland Foods first applied to trademark the ‘Iceland’ name in 2002 when it was
owned by an Icelandic retail group Baugur.

Following the 2008 financial crash the business was taken over by the banks.

In 2014, Iceland Foods’ founder, Malcolm Walker, took back control.

In 2016 the EUIPO granted the trademark to Iceland Foods. In that year Malcolm Walker maintained: “we have no desire whatsoever to stand in the way of Iceland the country making use of their own name to promote their own products, so long as it does not conflict or cause confusion with our own business.” “I am sure there is ample scope for an agreement that will allow both parties to continue to live and work amicably alongside each other.”

The Icelandic government, claimed, however, this would stop the country’s businesses from describing their products as Icelandic.

This came to a head when Iceland Foods tried to stop the trademark ‘Inspired by Iceland’ – registered to an entity called Íslandsstofa.

Iceland Foods was effectively objecting to the use of the word ‘Iceland’ by the Icelandic government itself.

The country’s Ministry for Foreign Affairs joined Promote Iceland, Business Iceland and patent law firm Árnason Faktor to protect Iceland’s national identity.

Iceland, the country, won a ruling in 2019 from the EUIPO that invalidated the exclusivity of Iceland Foods’ EU trademark registration.

The 2019 ruling said: “It has been adequately shown that consumers in EU countries know that Iceland is a country in Europe and also that the country has historical and economic ties to EU countries, in addition to geographic proximity.”

Foreign minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson said at the time : ‘I celebrate this result, although it in no way comes as a surprise to me, as it goes against common sense that a foreign company could file exclusive rights on the name of a sovereign country …This is a significant victory which means a great deal to Icelandic exporting companies.’

Iceland Foods is now appealing the 2019 European Union decision against it.

The case has been taken to the Grand Board of the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), which decides on trademark matters for each of the 27 nations that are its members.

Margrét Hjálmarsdóttir, an attorney at the Icelandic Intellectual Property Office, said: ‘It would mean that Icelandic companies could possibly not use the word Iceland in their trademarks to designate the products they’re selling.’

A decision on the trademark is expected next year

Relations between the 2 remain cold and show little sign of thawing …..

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