Several years ago, Iceland entered into a legal dispute with a British supermarket chain called Iceland, or “Iceland” in English, related to the fact that the company’s trademark registered in the European Union. The Icelandic state opposes this, and in 2019 obtained that the supermarket chain could no longer have the singularity of the word “Iceland”. But then Iceland resumed on September 9 It started Procedures before the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO).
Iceland has existed since 1970, when its first store was opened in Oswestry, an English town near Wales. Its name is due to the fact that it has been selling frozen food since the beginning. For a short period of its history, from 2005 to 2009, the chain was owned by a large Icelandic investment company, Baugur, but it went bankrupt due to the economic crisis that began in 2008. The ownership of Iceland passed to some Icelandic banks even to that in 2012, the chain was not purchased from A consortium led by Malcolm Walker, who founded it 42 years ago and after various upheavals, accepted to leave the company.
In 2014, Iceland Foods Ltd. (the company’s full name) obtained its trademark registration in the European Union and the following year problems began with Iceland. The origin of the dispute can be traced back to a campaign by Íslandsstofa, an Icelandic state-owned company promoting exports, which included the use of the slogan «Inspired by Iceland“,” Inspiration from Iceland “, on the export of food products. By virtue of registering its trademark, Iceland has attempted to ban the use of the logo.
Initially, Íslandsstofa and Iceland tried to find a solution without recourse to the courts, but to no avail, and so Íslandsstofa and the Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs requested the EUIPO to remove Iceland’s registered trademark in favor of Icelandic companies. According to Iceland, this prohibits the declaration of Icelandic products as such in the European Union.
In 2019, when Iceland scored its first legal victory in the case, Foreign Minister Gologur Tor Orursun said: “I celebrate this achievement, although in no way it surprises me because it goes against common sense that a foreign company can obtain exclusive rights over The name of a sovereign country.” Richard Walker, son of Malcolm and current director of the chain, said instead that Iceland would have preferred an amicable settlement and did not believe that having a registered trademark would prevent Icelandic companies from promoting their products as coming from Iceland.
We will likely have to wait until next year for EU members to comment on the issue again. Even at this point, it is not certain that the case will end because both parties will be able to appeal the decision by resorting to the Court of Justice of the European Union.
In any case, the story could set a precedent for other similar disputes. There are other countries in similar situations to Iceland – for example Switzerland and Jamaica – and other markets where words close to country names have been registered as trademarks. In the United States, for example, the word “Icelandic”, “Icelandic”, is itself a registered trademark.
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