Using country names as brand names: what entrepreneurs need to know

Do you want to use the name of a country in your brand name? It sounds like a good idea, but be careful; a judgment that is imminent could mean it might not be possible to do so any longer. In this article we outline what this is all about.  

Berg en meer in IJsland met de tekst: "ICELAND?"

The British supermarket chain "Iceland Foods Limited" has had to deal with objections from the Government of Iceland in relation to the use of the name "Iceland" as a brand name. The case has led to an international legal debate. In this article we explain what this (probably) means for the use of country names as brand names.

Background to the case 

Iceland Foods Limited has registered the word mark "ICELAND" with the EU Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO). This led to a dispute with the Icelandic government. Iceland feels that a private company should not be able to have an exclusive right to the name “Iceland” as a brand name. The Icelandic government wishes to retain control over the use of the name so they can work on a positive image and good reputation for the country. 

After the objections made by the Government of Iceland, the EUIPO has been stricter than before in its decisions relating to the use of country names as brand names. European country names are in any event now regarded as descriptive for a wide variety of products and services, and it is not possible to register a descriptive name as a trademark.  

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Stricter than before

After the objections made by the Government of Iceland, the EUIPO has been stricter than before in its decisions relating to the use of country names as brand names. European country names are in any event now regarded as descriptive for a wide variety of products and services, and it is not possible to register a descriptive name as a trademark.  

Legal challenges and reputation  
Do you want to use a country name in your brand name? If so, then you must consider there may be consequences, such as legal proceedings for example. Bear in mind especially that the debate is still ongoing. The supermarket chain Iceland Foods Limited has lodged an appeal against the judgment. This means there is as yet no final decision

Make informed decisions 

Are you thinking about registering your brand name? If so, it is important as an entrepreneur that you are well-informed. That is not only true for country names; it is also true for any name you choose. So, if you are thinking about registering your trademark, follow our 4 steps to help you and if necessary ask for advice from a legal professional who is active in this field.   

Follow our 4 steps

Would you like to know more about the ICELAND case? You will find the extended article for legal professionals here.

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