Photographer: Chris Ratcliffe/Bloomberg

Iceland Challenges Iceland U.K. Supermarket Chain Over Name

The government of Iceland is taking legal action against the U.K. supermarket chain Iceland Foods, arguing that its appropriation of the country’s name has caused harm to local businesses.

In a statement on Thursday, the Foreign Ministry in Reykjavik said it would ask the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EU-IPO) 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 legal challenge comes after multiple efforts to negotiate a “fair solution” with the supermarket chain had failed, the ministry said.

The British supermarket chain has been trading under the Iceland name since 1970.

“Though sometimes confused with a small country of Viking origins on the fringes of the Arctic Circle, the real Iceland is a unique British food retailer with over 860 stores throughout the U.K., a further 40 owned or franchised stores across Europe and a global export business,” is how it describes itself on its website.

In a response on Thursday, Iceland Foods said “we very much regret that the government of Iceland has apparently decided to take legal action over the use of the name Iceland.”

“Contrary to their assertion, we have received no recent approaches to achieve an amicable resolution of this issue, which would be our preferred approach,” it said. “While we will vigorously defend Iceland Foods’ established rights where there is any risk of confusion between our business and Iceland the country, we have been trading successfully for 46 years under the name Iceland and do not believe that any serious confusion or conflict has ever arisen in the public mind, or is likely to do so.”

The company urged the Icelandic government to “contact us directly so that we may address their concerns.”

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