Iceland vs Iceland: UK supermarket takes country to court over name

Iceland Foods is fighting for the right to trademark the country (Pictures: Rex / Getty)

Iceland the British supermarket has taken Iceland the country to court again.

Iceland Foods, founded in 1970, has fought for years to trademark the name of the Nordic island first settled by humans in 874 AD.

But the Icelandic government has claimed this would stop the country’s businesses from describing their products as Icelandic.

Now Iceland and Iceland Foods will fight it out once again after the chain appealed a 2019 European Union decision against it.

The case has been taken to the Grand Board of the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the bloc’s trademark authority.

Icelandic national broadcaster RÚV reported oral arguments began on Friday, with Icelandic lawyers saying the country losing would be a blow for Icelandic firms.

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

EUIPO board members, who consist of EU Council officials, are unlikely to decide until next year.

Unlike the country, Iceland doesn’t have geysers or the Northern Lights (Picture: Alamy Stock Photo)

But either party can appeal the decision and take the case to the Court of Justice of the European Union.

Best known for its frozen pizza and fondness among British mothers, Iceland Foods first applied to the EU to trademark the ‘Iceland’ name in 2002.

At the time, Iceland Foods was owned by an Icelandic retail group Baugur until the 2008 financial crash which handed the business to the banks.

In 2014, Iceland Foods’ founder, Malcolm Walker, took back control and two years later, the EUIPO finally granted the company’s trademark request.

The Icelandic government, however, wasn’t too thrilled by this and attempted to settle out of court to no avail.

But the dispute heated up when the frozen food seller tried to stop the trademark ‘Inspired by Iceland’ from being branded on groceries in 2015.

The trademark was registered to an entity called Íslandsstofa which Iceland Foods simply assumed was a commercial company.

People visit the scene of the newly erupted volcano taking place in Meradalir valley, near mount Fagradalsfjall, Iceland on August 4, 2022. - The eruption is some 40 kilometres (25 miles) from Reykjavik, near the site of the Mount Fagradalsfjall volcano that erupted for six months in March-September 2021, mesmerising tourists and spectators who flocked to the scene. (Photo by Jeremie RICHARD / AFP) (Photo by JEREMIE RICHARD/AFP via Getty Images)

People watch an erupted volcano in Meradalir, Iceland (Picture: Getty Images/AFP)

It wasn’t. What Iceland Foods had objected to using the word ‘Iceland’ in its products was 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 won a ruling in 2019 from the EUIPO that invalidated the exclusivity of Iceland Foods’ EU trademark registration.

‘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,’ foreign minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson said at the time.

‘This is a significant victory which means a great deal to Icelandic exporting companies.’ has contacted Iceland for comment.

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