UK retailer Iceland Foods acknowledged with 'regret' on Sunday that the Icelandic government had decided to proceed with legal action against the company's trademark of the word 'Iceland'.
Iceland founder & CEO Malcolm Walker said: “We very much regret that the Icelandic government was not willing to hold any serious discussion with us on ways in which we might co-operate to our mutual benefit."
He called the government's claims that Iceland couldn't use its name to promote tourism to the island due to the trademark "nonsensical".
He went on to say that the Icelandic government's claim that it had made multiple attempts to negotiate with the retailer in hope of reaching a resolution, failing due to Iceland Foods' 'unrealistic and unacceptable demands', was factually incorrect.
Iceland Foods registered the trademark in 1994, and said that its rights in the brand go back to the establishment of the company in 1970.
Walker claims that representatives had not approached them since 2012, when the government was allegedly involved with an application by Icelandic company Islandsstofa to register the phrase 'Inspired By Iceland'.
He said Iceland Foods did not dispute the trademark at the time, as it was registered with goods such as paper and cardboard that did not conflict with its own brand.
However, in 2015, Islandsstofa attempted to trademark goods which would compete with Iceland Foods' own, such as meat, jam and eggs. This is when the retailer got involved in the dispute, as permitting the Icelandic company to register the trademark would mean that similarly named supermarkets could pop up in the EU and UK.
Walker alleges their opposition to the registration is what prompted the government to get involved. The retailer had Icelandic majority shareholders and Icelandic representatives on its board from 2005-2012 and hadn't heard complaints before, he added.
The company said it still hopes for a successful resolution, and offered to explore ways to promote the sale of Icelandic products in its stores outside the country. Walker urged the government and people of Iceland to achieve a "sensible coexistence agreement" in the best interest for all parties.
It announced a like-for-like sales increase of 0.8% in the second quarter of its financial year.
© 2016 European Supermarket Magazine – your source for the latest retail news. Article by Karen Henderson. To subscribe to ESM: The European Supermarket Magazine, click here.