British supermarket chain Iceland Food Limited (“IFL”) applied to register a series of three marks, comprising the word ICELAND and variants of the chain’s logo. Registration was sought for a broad range of classes of goods and services. This application was opposed by a number of entities, including the Icelandic government, Iceland Spring in Iceland, Icelandic Group Plc. and various Icelandic trade organisations.
A decision issued on 8 August 2012, which determined that the opposition would be rejected in relation to the majority of classes. The Office found that evidence did not support a conclusion that the use of “Iceland” would be an indicator of geographic origin for these products/services and that there was little evidence these products were produced in Iceland and sold in the UK.
However, the opposition was upheld in certain other areas where geographic origin would be implied, either now or in the future. IFL appealed this part of the decision in relation to “meat, poultry and game”.
The Appointed Person, Professor Annand, determined that the Registrar’s original decision was correct and dismissed IFL’s appeal. She held that, where concerned with absolute grounds of refusal, the hearing officer had been entitled to rely on their own general knowledge and common sense and the evidence filed supported a finding that the objection in relation to “meat, poultry and game” was made out. Such a decision was in the public interest and borne out by the additional evidence admitted in the appeal: the key question is what would the average consumer understand on seeing ICELAND stamped on a piece of meat?
This decision serves as a reminder that, whilst it is possible to register a trade mark incorporating a geographic location, the Office may refuse any application where the relevant class of persons could reasonably be considered to associate the category of goods concerned with geographic origin, either now or in the future.