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Frozen Feuds

Frozen Feuds

Fresh from taking Europe by storm at Euro 2016, Iceland is in the midst of planning another upset, this time at the European Union Intellectual Property Office.

The government of Iceland has been making headlines for challenging Iceland Food’s EU trade mark in the word “ICELAND”, which has been registered since 2014.

The decision to make this challenge has, according to the Icelandic government, been made “because Iceland Foods has aggressively pursued and won multiple cases against Icelandic companies which use ‘Iceland’ in their representation, or as part of their trademark, even in cases when the products and services do not compete.”

Iceland’s ministry for foreign affairs explained that “the Icelandic government’s legal challenge at the European Union Intellectual Property Office seeks to invalidate this exclusive registration on the basis that the term ‘Iceland’ is exceptionally broad and ambiguous in definition, often rendering the country’s firms unable to describe their products as Icelandic.”

The challenge has been made under Article 52 of the EU Trade Marks Regulation, specifically on the grounds that:

  • the trade mark is devoid of any distinctive character;
  • that the trade mark consists exclusively of a sign/indication which may serve, in trade, to designate the kind, quality, quantity, intended purpose, value, geographical origin or the time of production of the goods or of rendering of the service, or other characteristics of the goods or service; and
  • that the trade mark is likely to deceive the public (for instance, as to the nature, quality or geographical origin of the goods or service).

It would appear that the Icelandic government have an uphill struggle to succeed with this attack, particularly as the “Iceland” trade mark had, prior to its registration in 2014, become a household name. However, despite these seemingly low odds of success, recent reports would suggest that the legal challenge has caused enough of a stir for Iceland Foods to send a “high level delegation” over to Reykjavik, presumably in an effort to defrost relations and reach an amicable settlement to the dispute.

For more information on this contact Felix Dodd