Iceland launches legal action against grocery chain
What’s in a name?
You’d think that any sovereign nation would have inalienable rights over its own country’s name and brand, wouldn’t you? Yet the government of Iceland is going head-to-head with a British grocery chain over this precise principle.
Bizarre though it may seem, the island of Iceland is challenging Iceland Foods’ ownership of the European-wide trademark registration for the word ‘Iceland’ which the government claims is preventing Iceland’s own companies from promoting their goods and services internationally.
According to Iceland’s ministry for foreign affairs, the privately owned company has ‘aggressively pursued and won multiple cases against Icelandic companies which use ‘Iceland’ in their representation or as part of their trademark, even in cases when the products and services do not compete’.
War of words
The ministry reported that the government had tried several times to negotiate with a view to reaching a fair solution and avoiding legal action but its efforts had been met with ‘unrealistic and unacceptable demands by the supermarket chain leaving Iceland with no choice but to proceed with a legal resolution to the situation’.
Iceland Foods said it hadn’t had any recent contact regarding an amicable resolution of the issue, which was its preferred approach.
The company said: ‘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.’
A thaw in relations?
This December, the frozen food retailer Iceland is planning to send a ‘high-level delegation’ to Reykjavik to help resolve the conflict. Delegates are hoping to meet with Iceland’s foreign ministry in a bid to broker a deal that will put an end to the legal challenge.
Founder and CEO Malcolm Walker said: ‘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 company, whose headquarters are in the north east of England, has more than 800 stores in the UK and employs more than 23,000 staff. Iceland’s government is seeking to invalidate the retailer’s Europe-wide trademark registration for the word on the basis that it is ‘exceptionally broad and ambiguous in definition, often rendering the country’s firms unable to describe their products as Icelandic’.
It remains to be seen whether a diplomatic thaw is in the pipeline.
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