Iceland court battle with country could ‘last years’
A leading law firm says a battle between the country of Iceland and the supermarket chain using its name could ‘last for years’.
On Thursday, the Icelandic government began proceedings to invalidate the Iceland supermarket’s European Union trade mark.
The trade mark currently covers a range of goods including freezers and microwaves, paper articles, food such as meat, vegetables and milk products, coffee, tea, confectionery and fruit, beers and non-alcoholic beverages and also the operation of its stores and its online shop.
The Icelandic government said its domestic firms were unable to describe their products as ‘Icelandic’, and accused the retailer of “unrealistic and unacceptable demands”.
“The Government of Iceland is concerned that our country’s businesses are unable to promote themselves across Europe in association with their place of origin – a place of which we are rightly proud and enjoys a very positive national branding,” the Icelandic Government said in a statement.
“This untenable situation has caused harm to Icelandic businesses, especially 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.”
To retain the trade mark, it will need to argue that the mark is distinctive for the products and the retail store, and that it will not cause the public to believe that products branded ‘Iceland’ actually come from Iceland.
Commenting on the case, Sharon Daboul, trademark attorney at IP law firm, EIP, said: “Unless Iceland Foods can come to an agreement with the Icelandic government, this is a battle that could last years.
“The food company is unlikely to want to share the exclusivity they have enjoyed in the term, by virtue of this European trade mark registration and decades of use, and they would certainly not want to open the door to non-Icelandic opportunists who might try to ride upon the success of their British brand in the EU.”
The Icelandic Government’s legal challenge will be heard at the European Union Intellectual Property Office.