Iceland v Iceland – UK supermarket hits back in name row

British supermarket Iceland on Friday hit back at Iceland the country after Reykjavik said it was suing the retailer over use of the Nordic nation’s name.

The frosty response came after the government of Iceland complained Thursday that the British supermarket had “aggressively pursued and won multiple cases against Icelandic companies” that use the word “Iceland” as part of their name or trademark — even in completely unrelated industries.

Reykjavik has taken the case to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EU-IPO) in a bid to reverse the company’s exclusive Europe-wide trademark registration for the word “Iceland”.

It said the supermarket’s vigorous defence of the trademark had repeatedly left firms “unable to describe their products as Icelandic”, and said the situation was hampering businesses’ ability to promote themselves as Iceland emerges from the 2008 financial crisis.

Iceland said it has tried to reach an agreement with the supermarket without success, prompting the legal action — but the chain disputed this on Friday.

“We very much regret that the government of Iceland has apparently decided to take legal action over the use of the name Iceland,” said a statement from the Wales-based retailer, which is known for its cut-price frozen foods.

“Contrary to their assertion we have received no recent approaches to achieve an amicable resolution of this issue, which would be our preferred approach.”

The chain said it “will vigorously defend Iceland Foods’ established rights where there is any risk of confusion between our business and Iceland the country”, stressing that it had been trading for 46 years under the name.

It added that consumers were unlikely to mix the two up, saying it did not believe “any serious confusion or conflict has ever arisen in the public mind, or is likely to do so”.

On its website, the company says that while it is “sometimes confused with a small country of Viking origins on the fringes of the Arctic Circle, the real Iceland is a unique British food retailer with over 860 stores throughout the UK, a further 40 owned or franchised stores across Europe and a global export business”.