The Icelandic government has taken legal action against British grocery retailer Iceland in a bid to help promote businesses in the Nordic country.
The government wants to invalidate the frozen food specialist’s exclusive use of the word ‘Iceland’ as a Europe-wide trademark.
In a strongly-worded statement released today, the government said the country had made “multiple efforts” to negotiate with the grocer in order to avoid legal action being taken.
But it claimed that the retailer had responded with “unrealistic and unacceptable demands”, which had left the government with “no choice” but to resort to legal action.
‘Concern’ for Nordic businesses
A statement from the country’s government said it was taking legal action “with the goal of ensuring the right of Icelandic companies to use the word ‘Iceland’ in relation to their goods and services.”
The statement added: “The Government, along with SA Business Iceland and Promote Iceland, is taking this step 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.
“Over the past years Iceland has made multiple efforts to negotiate with Iceland Foods with the hope of reaching a fair solution and avoiding legal action”
The government said it was “concerned” that businesses from the Nordic country were “unable to promote themselves across Europe in association with their place of origin.”
It added that the “untenable situation” had “caused harm” to Icelandic businesses.
The statement concluded: “Over the past years Iceland has made multiple efforts to negotiate with Iceland Foods with the hope of reaching a fair solution and avoiding legal action.
“These conciliatory efforts have unfortunately been met with unrealistic and unacceptable demands by the supermarket chain leaving Iceland with no choice but to proceed with a legal resolution to the situation.”
‘No recent approaches’
A spokesman for Iceland Foods denied that it had been approached by the government and insisted that would have been the grocer’s “preferred approach.”
The spokesman 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.
“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.
“We hope that the Government will contact us directly so that we may address their concerns.”