Retailer Iceland is sending a high-ranking delegation to Iceland – in a bid to end a cold war between the firm and the Nordic country.
Iceland’s government has mounted a legal challenge against the supermarket – headed by Grange Moor-born Malcolm Walker – at the European Union Intellectual Property Office to ensure the right of Icelandic firms to use the word ‘Iceland’ in relation to their goods and services.
It claims the supermarket has “aggressively pursued” and won multiple cases against Icelandic companies which use the word Iceland as part of their trademark “even in cases when the products and services do not compete.”
The retailer holds a Europe-wide trademark registration for the word. The country is seeking to invalidate the registration on the basis that it is “exceptionally broad and ambiguous in definition, often rendering the country’s firms unable to describe their products as Icelandic”.
In seeking a meeting, the retailer said it hoped to “lay out constructive proposals for resumption of the peaceful co-existence between the company and country that had prevailed for the previous 46 years.”
It said: “Iceland Foods did not simply take its name from the Nordic nation, but has a long history of close and friendly involvement with Iceland the country. Indeed for seven years from 2005 Iceland Foods was under the control of Icelandic investors and later Icelandic banks.”
This relationship ended with the £1.5bn management buyout of the company in 2012, but the company “had continued to have a warm relationship with the country through the ownership of three Iceland stores there, export sales of Iceland products to other retailers throughout the country and sponsorship of Iceland’s national team in the 2016 European football championships.
It said the closeness and friendliness of relations was underlined when Mr Walker welcomed then Icelandic Prime Minister Halldor Asgrimsson on an official visit to the firm’s Fulham Road store in London in 2006.
Mr Walker, the firm’s founder and chief executive, said: “We registered Iceland as our company name in 1970 and we have co-existed with the country called Iceland very happily ever since. They have made no contact with us to raise any concerns about trade mark issues since 2012. We have no desire whatsoever to stand in the way of Iceland (the country) making use of their own name to promote their own products, so long as it does not conflict or cause confusion with our own business. I am sure that there is ample scope for an agreement that will allow both parties to continue to live and work amicably alongside each other.
“A high level delegation...is preparing to fly to Reykjavik this week to begin negotiations, and we very much hope for a positive response and an early resolution of this issue.”