The End Of The Absurdity: Iceland, The Country, Successfully Invalidates The Trademark Of Iceland Foods, The Grocer
from the for-food-and-country dept
Way back in late 2016, we asked the same question that has been on the minds of all of humanity for eons: who gets to trademark Iceland? If that seems like an odd question to you, perhaps a little context will help. See, Iceland has been a sovereign nation since the early 1900s, whereas Iceland Foods has been a grocery chain in the UK since the 1970s. And, yet, somehow the latter managed to get an EU-wide trademark for the term “Iceland” and then went around bullying companies from Iceland out of using that term in their own names, even when they weren’t competing in the grocery marketplace. How did the EU manage to think it would be okay to grant this trademark in the first place, you ask? By not putting a whole lot of thought into it, would be my guess.
Well, when Iceland, the country, applied for a trademark for “Inspired by Iceland”, only to have it blocked by Iceland Foods, it apparently represented the last straw. Iceland petitioned the EU to invalidate this absurd trademark, leading to reps from Iceland Foods trekking to meet with the nation’s officials. The outcome of that meeting was apparently Iceland Foods being totally confused as to why Iceland wasn’t just being cool, maaaaan.
Well, this story has finally reached its conclusion, and that conclusion is the EU reversing its original error and invalidating the trademark.
Now, years later, EUIPO has ruled in favour of Iceland – the country – and invalidated the supermarket’s trademark entirely, noting that “It has been adequately shown that consumers in EU countries know that Iceland is a country in Europe and also that the country has historical and economic ties to EU countries, in addition to geographic proximity.”
Foreign Minister Guðlaugur Þór Þórðarson said he welcomed the ruling, but was not surprised by it. “…[I]t defies common sense that a foreign company can stake a claim to the name of a sovereign nation as was done [in this case],” he remarked.
Well… yeah. That’s right. The idea that the EU granted a trademark for the name of a nation within the European Economic Area is the kind of thing that proves it’s impossible to write parody any longer. Sure, Iceland isn’t officially in the EU, but trademark law has always cast narrow eyes at applications for terms that represent geography. None of this is new. Or difficult. Yet, for years Iceland Foods has been able to wield its absurd trademark against other businesses from Iceland, and against Iceland’s government itself.
Now, Iceland Foods has the option to appeal the ruling over the next couple of months. I can’t imagine it will do so, though I wouldn’t have guessed one could trademark “Iceland” to begin with, so…