A ruling from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) has definitively ended a dispute that has raged on for years: who can use the word “Iceland” for business purposes.
The dispute goes back many years, wherein a number of Icelandic businesses were being targeted by the supermarket chain Iceland for using the word “Iceland” on their goods and services. The situation eventually prompted Promote Iceland, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Business Iceland to take part in the effort to free “Iceland”, with the help of patent attorney office Árnason Faktor.
Ultimately, EUIPO decided what common sense would dictate; i.e. to many people, “Iceland” evokes a Nordic country in the North Atlantic which has been using the name Iceland for centuries, whereas “Iceland” the supermarket chain has only been using this name since 1970. As such, Icelandic companies have every right to use the word attached to their goods and services, and the supermarket chain cannot reasonably trademark the name of a country that has been around since the 9th century.
“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,” Minister of Foreign Affairs Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson said in a statement posted on the Ministry’s website. “This is a significant victory which means a great deal to Icelandic exporting companies. Our country is known for cleanliness and sustainability, which increases the value of products that claim Iceland as a source.”
We should perhaps not celebrate too soon; Iceland Foods has until June 5 to file an appeal on the matter, which they may well do. For now, though, Icelandic companies can breathe a little bit easier.
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