LONDON, Nov 29 (Reuters) - British supermarket chain Iceland Foods is sending a delegation to “The Land of Fire and Ice” in an effort to resolve a legal dispute over the trademark registration of the word “Iceland”.
Iceland Foods, whose 22,000 employees would be equivalent to almost 7 percent of Iceland the country’s population, said it was urgently seeking a meeting after the north Atlantic island said last week it had taken legal action against the retailer.
Reykjavik said Iceland Food’s Europe-wide registration had often left Icelandic firms unable to describe their products as Icelandic and it had asked the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EU-IPO) to invalidate it.
Iceland Foods said on Tuesday it wanted “to lay out constructive proposals for resumption of the peaceful coexistence between the company and country that had prevailed for the previous 46 years.”
The supermarket, which is best known for its frozen foods, said it had a long history of friendly relations with Iceland, which lies about 800 km (500 miles) northwest of Scotland and has a population of 329,100.
The company was under the control of Icelandic investors and banks for seven years from 2005 and sponsored the Icelandic national team in this year’s European soccer championships - a tournament that saw England dumped out by Iceland.
“We registered Iceland as our company name in 1970 and we have coexisted with the country called Iceland very happily ever since,” said its founder and Chief Executive Malcolm Walker.
“They have made no contact with us to raise any concerns about trademark issues since 2012.”
An Iceland Foods spokesman said the company is hoping for a meeting this week, though it did not yet have a firm date in the diary and that its delegation to Reykjavik would be led by company secretary and legal director Duncan Vaughan.
But a statement from Iceland’s foreign ministry appeared to offer little room for negotiation.
“The government of Iceland, on behalf of the country’s businesses, aims to find an acceptable solution for the use of the term ‘Iceland’,” it said.
“We would welcome an agreement with Iceland Foods to withdraw its exclusive trademark of the word ‘Iceland’.” (Editing by Alexander Smith)