Iceland v. Iceland — two European countries at odds

Iceland v. Iceland — two European countries at odds

Iceland is a country. Likely you knew that. A European nation famous for beautiful countryside, being tough on bankers and relatively liberal politically. Iceland is also a place in Britain. Several places, in fact.

The British Iceland is a chain of supermarkets. And this is something that endlessly irks the country of Iceland. After who knows how long putting up with the brand confusion, the country of Iceland took the incredible step of suing the grocer Iceland. The argument, the supermarket’s trademark is causing marketing problems for a host of Icelandic companies, products … and, presumably, the nation itself, in an increasingly connected and digital world.

But this is no simple skirmish where one side could go, “Well, I see what you mean. Let’s see if we can come to an agreement.” Iceland, the company, has been around for nearly half a century, trading under that name for most of five decades. They are happy with the brand and have two generations of loyal customers who, likely, think the name is just brilliant, thanks.

Just how “happy” is the supermarket with its name? The company has sued – and won – multiple lawsuits defending its trademark turf. This string of the grocer’s legal wins defending its name further hacked off the government of Iceland, who issued the following statement:

“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…”

But they’re not just rattling sabers. Iceland – the country – has taken their case before the European Union Intellectual Property Office in an effort to force the EU to invalidate the Iceland (supermarket) trademark.

Iceland – the store – remains unmoved, vowing to “vigorously defend Iceland Foods’ established rights where there is any risk of confusion between our business and Iceland the country…”

Seems like they’re frozen in place and not about to budge. And, as a retailer in a country somewhat “split” on its connection to the EU, it’s likely Iceland (the grocer) is emboldened in its preparation to stand against the country of the same name.

How will all of this play out in the court of public opinion? The jury’s still out on that one, but people are definitely taking sides. Brit comedians are likely to have a field day. Everyone else is probably preparing for a protracted fight.

Ronn Torossian

Ronn Torossian is the founder and CEO of 5WPR and one of the most well-respected Public Relations professionals in the United States. Ronn is the author of "For Immediate Release: Shape Minds, Build Brands, and Deliver Results with Game-Changing Public Relations."

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