The End Of The Absurdity: Iceland, The Country, Successfully Invalidates The Trademark Of Iceland Foods, The Grocerer

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...

Filed Under: iceland, trademark
Companies: iceland foods


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 8:54pm

    Wasn't there a recent story about South American countries complaining about the trademark of the name "Amazon"? I'd love to see what impact this decision has on that discussion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      JoeCool (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 1:02pm

      Re:

      Amazon isn't a country, it's a river and a rain-forest. So it's not remotely the same thing. Now if they called their company "Brazil", then you'd have a point. ;)

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 9:42pm

    Pirate Party Indeed.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 9:47pm

    This reads like the jokes about some country losing the name "Tanzania" to a chain of fake sun-tanning studios... are you sure this isn't a parody or joke?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Aaron Walkhouse (profile), 17 Apr 2019 @ 9:48pm

    Off topic, but…

    …why is the comments counter off by one on many posts?

    The only posts that ever show zero comments before
    someone submits a comment are Daily Deals.
    All the others show "1 Comments" before then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2019 @ 8:16am

      Re: Off topic, but…

      I don't see that at all. In fact, the counter seems to lag the actual comment count even when I refresh the home page.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 17 Apr 2019 @ 10:56pm

    Off topic, but…

    …why is the comments counter off by one on many posts? The only posts that ever show zero comments before someone submits a comment are Daily Deals. All the others show "1 Comments" before then.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 12:24am

      Re: Off topic, but…

      Weird, every new topic I see before anyone posts always says "leave a comment" for me if there's no posts. Maybe the display acts differently if you're anonymous?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    afn29129 David (profile), 17 Apr 2019 @ 11:31pm

    Iceland sovereign??

    Iceland sovereign??

    The Fact that Iceland had to go upon bended knee to the Lords of EU to petition for redress indicated that Iceland really isn't all that sovereign anymore.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Ben (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 1:45am

      Re: Iceland sovereign??

      Iceland (the country) had to take it to the EUIPO because Iceland (the company) had a trademark granted by the EUIPO to be used in the region governed (for trademark purposes) by the EUIPO. Iceland (the country) does not rule the EU (nor does France, Germany, the UK, or any other EU member nation), and therefore when there are issues about trademarks in the EU, the EUIPO is the ruling body.
      Within Iceland (the country) is absolutely able to block Iceland (the company) from having any trademark protection.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      wereisjessicahyde (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 3:12am

      Re: Iceland sovereign??

      Iceland isn't even in the EU. And is very much a sovereign nation. As are countries that are part of the EU. But hey, who cares about facts.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Seegras (profile), 17 Apr 2019 @ 11:51pm

    Iceland is part of the Schengen-space

    Which means there are no border controls between Iceland and most other European countries (including Norway and Switzerland, which are also not part of the EU). Except Britain, of course.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      PaulT (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 12:26am

      Re: Iceland is part of the Schengen-space

      "Except Britain, of course"

      Because the UK is not, and has never been, part of the Schengen space. That's one of those massive special deals the EU regularly give us, that the people dumb enough to vote Brexit claim we never get.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Seegras (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 2:12am

        Re: Re: Iceland is part of the Schengen-space

        Actually, I even believe that not being part of the Schengen space helped Brexit.

        Because the rest of Europe suddenly realized they could travel everywhere. Not just foreigners were coming in, but they themselves could live and work wherever in Europe. Which produced a feeling of "belonging together", at least in the younger generation.

        Of course, Idiot lawmakers in the EU (and Switzerland too) are now threatening everything; because people start to see the EU as a vehicle of their own governments forcing unwanted laws down their throat. Can't get it past the people in your own country? Make the EU do it. Oh, and Switzerland will follow, sometimes even before it's law in the EU (https://www.parlament.ch/press-releases/Pages/mm-wbk-s-2019-02-12.aspx sorry, not in English, basically it wanted the same Article 11 as the EU, 7 days before the end of the EU deliberations. It's now postponed, but this will rear its ugly head again).

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          PaulT (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 2:32am

          Re: Re: Re: Iceland is part of the Schengen-space

          "Because the rest of Europe suddenly realized they could travel everywhere. Not just foreigners were coming in, but they themselves could live and work wherever in Europe."

          Despite what the ignorant will tell you, this is perfectly possible for Brits as well. In fact the one major reasons why I, as a Brit, chose to live in Spain rather than look further afield was the fact that I could just turn up and work legally with a minimum of paperwork. There are a great many people who did the same because it was their right to do so.

          The right to work and of free movement is an EU benefit, not a Schengen one. The only functional difference for most people is that you have to show your passport travelling to and from mainland EU, while travel within it usually doesn't involve a check at the other side.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2019 @ 8:19am

          Re: Re: Re: Iceland is part of the Schengen-space

          I wonder whether I'll see the EU renamed as Germany in my lifetime. My son certainly will.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Glenn, 18 Apr 2019 @ 4:20am

    It's just "grocer". "Grocerer" is a made-up word by people who think the more "er" you have, the better. Sort of like using "preventative" instead of "preventive" (because more syllables make you sound more educated, I guess).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2019 @ 6:58am

      Re:

      made-up word

      Unlike those other words that god created on the 8th day right after he finished making the universe...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2019 @ 8:22am

      Re:

      "Grocerer" seems to be in fairly common use in the UK. Likewise "preventative". Both are valid words despite your peevishness.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        Bamboo Harvester (profile), 18 Apr 2019 @ 8:35am

        Re: Re:

        So is "grocer", one who sells "groceries". Do UK "grocerers" sell "grocers"?

        That would be betterer than plain old foodstocks...

        FWIW, searches on several engines return "Did you mean grocer?", so it's usage is not all that commonplace.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2019 @ 10:47am

          Re: Re: Re:

          Common enough that it's become an accepted form of the word. Like it or not, language evolves. The major dictionaries add tons of new words every year.

          I agree that "grocerer" sounds dumb (and is even highlighted as I type this as a spelling error) but that doesn't change the reality that many use it and it has become accepted. If you click that little link to really search for "grocerer" you'll get lots of UK hits -- and plenty more for people apparently named Grocerer.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      John85851 (profile), 19 Apr 2019 @ 10:28am

      Re:

      How about "disoriented" and "disorientated"? Don't they both mean being confused or dizzy? Or is one fancier since it has more syllables?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 21 Apr 2019 @ 2:10pm

        Re: Re:

        There are additional property substrings. Flammable and Inflammable are another example from the opposite end of redundancy from being based on inflame instead of flame. That thing happens in languages - expecting redundant synonyms to not exist is irrational really.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 18 Apr 2019 @ 7:00am

    Sense

    Why do writers invoke common sense so often?

    Common sense is not good sense.

    If it was then the Darwin Awards wouldn't have to keep raising the bar.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 18 Apr 2019 @ 12:47pm

    Simple iceland had to go to the trademark committee to cancel the trademark, since they are they only ones who can do so.

    Imagine some english company had the trademark for France and
    was taking legal action against companys that had the word france on the label.
    Certain things should not be trademarked ,for obvious reasons
    i doubt if a private company has the trademark for The Catholic church
    or the US marine corps .

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

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

    Iceland

    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.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Dyspeptic Curmudgeon (profile), 22 Apr 2019 @ 9:52pm

    Iceland

    Sorry, my comment seems to have done a Breakaway, and lost all its breaks.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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