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...

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Filed Under: iceland, trademark
Companies: iceland foods

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  1. icon
    Dyspeptic Curmudgeon (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 9:48pm


    Being a sovereign nation, Iceland should have taken a more Game of Thrones attitude. It appears that some 56% of Iceland the schmuck corporation is owned by a South African investment group. Iceland the sovereign should have just made teh the South Africans an offer they could not refuse. (Not because someone would wake up with a horses head, in their bed, or even a 100 kilo haddock!) Just a wad of cash being instant profit. At 57%, you control the Board of Directors, so some 'Game of Thrones' in the boardroom, including especially the in-house and out-house lawyers how had so thoroughly covered themselves in shit, would then be in order. And the Board of DIrectors would require the managing officers to file a cancellation/ abdication of the trademark (with or without the right to renew in a limited form). I doubt that Iceland the sovereign would actually need to exercise all of its powers. (although the image of Danaerys-style torching of the prisoners would be interesting... even if a flamethrower was a standin for a dragon!). The writing would not just be on the wall, it would be carved into the wall! I suspect that the head mojo did not actually realize what his minions were doing . He strikes me as being a pretty impressive guy. Sir Malcolm Walker, OBE. There's a rags to riches to rags to riches story here. This is a chunk of its history, taken from its website: Iceland the foodco started in 1970 by Malcolm Walker. Went public in 1984 By 1995, Iceland the foodco had 752 stores and 25 consecutive years of profit and revenue growth. In 2000, Walker fails to recognize the flim-flam. 2000 Iceland makes a recommended offer for Booker, the UK’s largest cash-and-carry operator, with the aim of exploiting buying and other synergies between the two businesses. 2001 New Iceland chief executive Bill Grimsey issues a massive profit warning, and Malcolm Walker and other senior managers are forced to leave the company 2002 Iceland-Booker is renamed The Big Food Group and launches a grandiose recovery plan (Click here to read the saga of ‘The one, two, three, four, five year recovery plan’) but customer numbers and sales remain in steady decline while costs escalate. 2004 The Big Food Group is nearing bankruptcy as provisions made in 2001 come close to exhaustion. 2005 The Big Food Group is taken private and Iceland returned to the management of Malcolm Walker and other senior executives who had been ejected in 2001. ... 2007 Iceland is restored to robust financial health, generating cash and recording an operating profit of almost £100 million. 2009 Iceland opens more than 70 new stores across the UK, including 51 bought from the receivers of Woolworths, and sales exceed £2 billion for the first time. And so on.

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