In 2014, the British discount grocers Iceland Foods (so named for their pioneering role in selling frozen food) was granted an EU-wide trademark on the word "Iceland" by the EU Intellectual Property Organisation, which apparently saw no risk in giving a British grocer a monopoly over the use of the name of a sovereign nation that was also a member of the European Economic Area.
Iceland Foods was not a measured steward over its monopoly, either: the company abused its trademark by attacking Icelandic businesses that used the word "Iceland" in their names, even ones that were in no way related to groceries. Then, when the country moved to block the nation of Iceland from getting a trademark for the tourist slogan "Inspired by Iceland," the nation finally sued to have the company's trademark invalidated and prevailed.
Iceland Foods can still appeal the decision.
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. "What we're talking about here is a milestone victory in a matter of real importance for Icelandic exporters. Our country is known for its purity and its sustainability, hence the value of indicating the origin of Icelandic products."
Iceland Wins Trademark Dispute Against Supermarket Chain [Larissa Kyzer/Iceland Review]
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