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Iceland (the country) is suing Iceland (the grocery store)

by David Gilbert
Nov 25 2016, 7:18am

2016 is on a roll. Not only has this year seen the shock British vote to leave the European Union and Donald Trump win the U.S. presidential election, but now we learn that a country is suing a grocery store.

That’s right, the country Iceland is taking the grocery store Iceland to court over the “aggressive” use of its name. Here’s what you need to know:

What is Iceland?

Iceland is a small European island nation in the north Atlantic, whose most famous exports are Björk, Sigur Rós and herring. Iceland is also a shop established in the U.K. in 1967 which predominantly sells frozen foods. It currently has 800 locations; employs 23,000 people and is owned by South African investment group Brait and entrepreneur Malcolm Walker.

What’s the problem?

Iceland (the shop) holds a European wide trademark to the name “Iceland.” The government and businesses in Iceland (the country) claim that this puts them at a disadvantage when trying to promote themselves overseas.

As the Icelandic government explained: “The government of Iceland is concerned that our country’s businesses are unable to promote themselves across Europe in association with their place of origin — a place of which we are rightly proud and enjoys a very positive national branding.”

How did we get here?

Iceland, the shop, has already taken legal steps to block previous attempts by Icelandic companies registering their names, including Iceland Gold, a fish retailer, and Clean Iceland, a wholesaler of Icelandic national products.

Iceland, the shop, said that in 46 years of trading no “serious confusion or conflict has ever arisen in the public mind.”

What happens now?

The Icelandic government has begun a legal challenge against the food store at the European Union Intellectual Property Office, claiming that the “Iceland” trademark is “exceptionally broad and ambiguous in definition.”

Iceland (the shop again) has said that this is a regrettable move and it plans to “vigorously defend Iceland Foods’ established rights where there is any risk of confusion between our business and Iceland the country.”

It has however asked the Icelandic government to get in touch directly to “address their concerns” so we may still avoid a lengthy — and frankly ridiculous — legal battle.