The Icelandic Ministry for Foreign Affairs has launched legal action against the British supermarket chain Iceland Foods, according to a press release. The reason is that the chain has for years fought to prevent Icelandic companies from identifying themselves by their country of origin while marketing their products in Europe. In addition to the ministry, Promote Iceland and SA-Business Iceland have prepared the legal challenge.
The supermarket chain, which specializes in frozen foods, has had the exclusive right to use the name Iceland as a trademark within the European Union, according to a decision made by the European Union Intellectual Property Office. Icelandic authorities are demanding that this exclusive right be revoked, because of how extensive it is and because it prevents Icelandic businesses from referring to their products’ country of origin.
The supermarket chain has repeatedly complained to European authorities over those Icelandic companies which have used the word Iceland as part of their trademark. Among others, this has hurt the marketing efforts of Inspired by Iceland, which aims to promote Iceland, the country, as an exciting destination for tourists.
Foreign Minister Lilja Alfreðsdóttir remarked, “It’s both fair and natural for Icelandic parties to be able to refer to their country of origin, if they choose to do so, in their marketing efforts abroad. In the minds of consumers across the world, the image of [the country] Iceland is very positive, and that entails major opportunities for the country and its people. Our attempts to negotiate a fair solution to the problem have been in vain, and, therefore, we’re forced to fight for our right by formal means at the appropriate EU institutions. I’m hopeful that the result will prove positive.”
The supermarket chain laments the decision of Icelandic authorities, according to RÚV, and denies that attempts have been made to reach an agreement by contacting the chain.
According to the Guardian, Iceland Foods was founded in 1970, and has more than 800 stores across the UK, employing more than 23,000 people.
The Viking Hrafna-Flóki gave the country Iceland its name in the ninth century, after watching Vatnsfjörður fjord filled with pack ice from where he stood on top of a mountain. Iceland has a population of 332,000 people.