01 February 2017


The UK supermarket chain Iceland Foods Limited, advertised by household names such as Jason Donovan and Peter Andre, is facing legal action from the Nordic country over its trade mark ICELAND.

In Britain the word “Iceland” may be more likely to call to mind frozen prawn cocktails and mini quiche, rather than the small, volcanic country. The supermarket Iceland has been in business in the UK since the 1970s; however it waited until 2002 to file an application for formal trade mark rights. This application was not granted until 2014, due to a significant examination and opposition process.

Iceland has since used this registration to oppose an application for the trade mark INSPIRED BY ICELAND, by Promote Iceland, a partnership tasked by the Icelandic government with improving the competitiveness of its companies abroad. This has erupted into a dispute, with the Nordic country deciding to take legal action against the supermarket chain and applying to cancel its trade mark.

In November 2016 The Icelandic Ministry of Foreign Affairs filed an application to declare Iceland’s trade mark invalid. Some media outlets link the origins of the dispute to the supermarket successfully exploiting publicity from England’s humiliating Euro 2016 loss to Iceland on social media.

This dispute has allegedly caused confusion amongst the supermarket representatives, who visited the government in Reykjavik in an attempt to reach a resolution. However, the Icelandic government remains resolute, arguing that its businesses are unable to promote themselves across Europe due to the trade mark, causing them harm.

It will be interesting to see how this dispute plays out and whether a country is able to cancel the trade mark, despite owning no registered trade marks in the word itself.