Icelandic government takes UK’s Iceland Foods to court over use of ‘Iceland’

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The government of Iceland is taking the UK supermarket chain Iceland Foods to court over the use of the name ‘Iceland’, which the UK firm owned as a European trademark.

According to the Icelandic government, the UK firm’s ownership of the trademark was preventing companies like Iceland Gold, a fish retailer and Clean Iceland, a wholesaler of Icelandic national products from promoting their goods and services overseas. Both the companies had failed to register themselves with the EU in recent years, due to the supermarket’s ownership of this trademark.

The government added that that the legal action was aimed at cancelling the trademark, and not to force the supermarket to change its name. In this regards, the government said it had filed a legal challenge at the European Union Intellectual Property Office, in Alicante, Spain.

In a statement, it said, “[The Icelandic Government] seeks to invalidate this exclusive registration on the basis that the term ‘ICELAND’ is exceptionally broad and ambiguous in definition, often rendering the country’s firms unable to describe their products as Icelandic.”

The government of Iceland said this was causing harm especially to its small and growing companies.

“A company or product made in Iceland or by an Icelandic company should be able to represent itself using the name of the country,” it argued.

It added Iceland Foods, which held a European trademark, had “aggressively pursued” and won multiple cases against Icelandic companies which had used the word Iceland.

Iceland Foods responded, “We very much regret that the Government of Iceland has apparently decided to take legal action over the use of the name Iceland.

“Contrary to their assertion we have received no recent approaches to achieve an amicable resolution of this issue, which would be our preferred approach.

“While we will vigorously defend Iceland Foods’ established rights where there is any risk of confusion between our business and Iceland the country, we have been trading successfully for 46 years under the name Iceland and do not believe that any serious confusion or conflict has ever arisen in the public mind, or is likely to do so.”