from on ice department
I can’t believe we’re back. Way back in 2016, we wondered aloud who would get to label the word “Iceland”. Confused? Well, Iceland Foods is a grocery store in the UK that has been around since the 1970s. Iceland is also the name of a sovereign nation founded in the early 1900s. In 2016, Iceland Foods finally got a trademark on its brand after years of trying. It then chose to block a trademark application in the EU for “Inspired by Iceland”. The candidate for that label was the nation of Iceland. The nation, as you might imagine, was not happy and asked the EUIPO to invalidate the Iceland Foods trademark entirely, which it did in 2019. The first part of the title of the last post I wrote was The end of the absurd.
Ridiculousness, as it turns out, doesn’t die so easily. Iceland Foods has decided to appeal the decision to the EUIPO executive board, which started processing the case a week or so ago.
Iceland Foods chief executive Richard Walker has said the supermarket will “vigorously defend” its intellectual property rights. Grocery magazine rreports.
“We have successfully traded under our name in the UK since the 1970s and today it is one of the UK’s best known brands. We had certainly hoped that we would avoid a hearing last week and reach a settlement. While we will vigorously defend Iceland Foods’ intellectual property where there is a risk of confusion between our business and another company, this would not restrict Icelandic producers from describing products or services that come from Iceland.”
This last comment is belied by the grocer’s decision to previously block trademark applications from Iceland to do exactly that. Those who represent Iceland do not trust that Walker’s company lives up to its word.
Margrét Hjálmarsdóttir, chief legal officer of the Icelandic Intellectual Property Institute, said that if the country lost the case “it meant that Icelandic companies could not use the word Iceland in their trademarks to identify the products they are selling.”
Which is all, or should be, entirely beside the point. After all, it’s about as ridiculous as the EU granting a British private company a trademark for the name of a member nation in the European Economic Area. Moreover, the rules for trademarking geographic areas are supposed to be very, very strict. And add to that the fact that brands are primarily meant to be an identifier of origin, but giving Iceland Foods the label back is potentially confusing as to the origin of the product (does it come from Iceland?), and it’s all a total parody that happens to be real.
Hopefully the EUIPO will shut this down, although the comment seems to be that it could take a month or more.
Filed Under: euipo, Iceland, trademarks, United Kingdom
Company: Icelandic Foods