Iceland is a tiny country off the eastern coast of Greenland and to the north and west of Europe. Iceland is also a supermarket that primarily is known for its frozen foods in the United Kingdom. Why are we talking about these two entities?
Well, Iceland Foods has a trademark in the European Union for the word “Iceland.” This was granted to them in 2014. Iceland the country is not a member of the European Union. As a result, Iceland Foods has a stranglehold on the name Iceland in Europe. They can dictate quite a bit about the frozen food market and their brand as a result.
But the country of Iceland is a major exporter of frozen fish and seafood to the European Union. With Iceland Foods controlling the trademark, it makes it much more difficult for exporters from Iceland to manage their business in Europe.
The country of Iceland has since requested that the European Union Intellectual Property Office invalidate the trademark held by Iceland Foods. It appears that this dispute over intellectual property will linger on in the coming months.
Obviously this is a very complex situation, with international trade being affected in ways no one would have considered back when Iceland Foods landed the trademark. But this is true of many trademarks, patents and copyrights. They are integral parts of intellectual property for businesses, and when they obtain these legal protections, they have to do everything they can to protect them.
Source: CNN, “Iceland is suing a supermarket that’s using its name,” Ivana Kottasova, Nov. 25, 2016