Uber Loses Trademark Case Against Taxi Company

Taxis at the airport

The Icelandic Patent Office has rejected the claims of Uber, the international peer-to-peer transportation company, that the Icelandic taxi company’s registration of the trademark Suber Taxi is a copyright infringement, RÚV reports.

In March of last year, Hreyfill, an Icelandic taxi company, applied for a trademark on the brand Suber Taxi, which is to be a taxi service that allows customers to book rides on an app. Hreyfill’s CEO noted in an interview at the time that the company was preparing itself for changes on the transportation market in the coming years.

Spokespeople for Uber said that these statements indicated that Hreyfill’s owners were aware of the Uber brand and the name of its company.

In its rejection of Uber’s claim, the Patent Office said that Uber had not sufficiently proven that Hreyfill had intentionally registered for the Suber Taxi trademark with the explicit intention of preventing Uber from entering the Icelandic market and/or availing itself of the goodwill of Uber’s customers. When considering the complaint, the Patent Office reviewed Icelandic media coverage related to Uber and stated that there was not enough indication that the Uber brand is widely thought of in connection to taxi services in Iceland.

Uber representatives had also taken excerpts out of two MPs speeches about the taxi industry and allowing Uber to come to Iceland as evidence of the brand’s existing prominence in Iceland. The Patent Office said, however, that the fact that Uber has been discussed in Icelandic parliament does not indicate that the brand is well-known throughout the country.

Hreyfill’s lawyers requested that in its response, the Patent Office should clearly note that based on current taxi laws in Iceland, it is not actually possible for Uber to operate in the country. The Patent Office declined to make any such statement.

In its response to the ruling, Uber said that the company thought it obvious that the meaning of “Uber” and “Suber” are essentially the same. The word “uber” means “over” or “super” in German, and “Suber,” they said, is clearly a play on the English word “Super.”

Milk Consumption on the Decline

Icelanders’ milk consumption has declined in recent years. Since 2010, total sales of “drinking milk” have gone down by 25%, or 7.9 million litres. The category “drinking milk” nýmjólk (whole milk), léttmjólk (low-fat milk), undanrenna (skim milk), and fjörmjólk (a vitamin-enriched blend of low-fat and skim milk) and is meant to differentiate between milk and other dairy products.

In 2018, 23.8 million litres of milk were sold, which is down 2.8% from the previous year. All combined, dairy companies that are part of the Association of Dairy Producers (SAM) sold 2.2% less milk between 2017 and 2018. The association reports a decline in the sales of all dairy products except cream and powdered milk.

While milk sales have decreased, however, sales of dairy products such as cream, powdered milk, and spreads have increased considerably since 2010. Cream sales have gone up the most, or around 30.4% since 2010 (7.1% just from last year).

Skyr sales have also fallen last year, with 169 fewer tons sold. Additionally, 102 fewer tons of cheese were sold in 2018.

Even as milk sales are down, however, people in the dairy industry are being encouraged to innovate. In 2017, the dairy cooperative Auðhumla gave three grants for the development of entrepreneurial projects that use milk as a key ingredient. One of the grants was ISK 3 million [$24,556; € 22,056] for innovative uses of whey that is a byproduct of milk production. Another ISK 3 million was given for the development of Jökla, a milk-based liquor that would be the first of its kind to be produced with Icelandic milk. The third grant went to a pilot project that seeks to develop health products from colostrum.

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir is Government’s Most Popular Minister

Lilja Alfreðsdóttir is one of the people nominated for Person of the Year.

A new survey has found that Lilja Alfreðsdóttir, Minister of Education, Science and Culture, is Iceland’s most popular cabinet minister. Stundin notes that no other minister comes close to Lilja’s rating: 67.6% approval, 9.6% disapproval.

Among her recent initiatives, Lilja has proposed the introduction of a bill outlining measures against sexual harassment in sports and youth groups, has suggested a restructuring of the Icelandic school system, and has introduced paid internships for student teachers.

The next most popular minister, with 43.2% approval and 19% disapproval, is Þórdís Kolbrún R. Gylfadóttir, the Minister of Tourism, Industry and Innovation who also temporarily serving as Minister of Justice. Þórdís Kolbrún took over as Minister of Justice in March, when Sigríður Á. Andersen resigned from the position after the European Court of Human Rights ruled that her appointments to the Court of Appeal had been unlawful and impeded individuals’ rights to a fair trial. The survey was taken shortly after Sigríður resigned and so it perhaps comes as no surprise that she was found to be respondents’ least favorite minister, with an approval rating of 13.8% and a disapproval rating of 65.8%.

Bjarni Benediktsson, the Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs has the next highest disapproval rating, 51.6%, although he still has an approval rating of 25%.

Prime Minister Katrín Jakobsdóttir had a fairly even approval to disapproval rating: 38.6% said they were happy with her performance; 34.4% said they were dissatisfied.

The survey was conducted by Maskína from March 15 to 27. There were 848 respondents.



Customs Duties on Imported Potatoes May be Suspended

Customs duties on imported potatoes will be likely be suspended from May 3 until August 11, RÚV reports. The Ministry of Industries and Innovation has temporarily lifted these duties because of a shortage of high-quality domestic potatoes. Iceland’s current potato crop suffered after a wet and cold summer last year.

Local farmers and the Icelandic Federation of Trade have been calling for a suspension of import duties for the last three weeks, saying that that even the Sales Association of Vegetable Farmers (SFG) has supported the idea. But these petitions had been denied by the Ministry of Industries’ Advisory Committee on the Import and Export of Agricultural Products, which said that duties could only be suspended in the event of a shortage of domestic product.

Per the provisions of the laws governing agricultural products, there can only be a suspension of import duties when two leading domestic distributors and two key domestic producers cannot keep up with demand. Since technically, there are enough Icelandic potatoes, the advisory committee said there shouldn’t be a suspension of customs duties. Local retailers were unhappy with this interpretation, saying that it missed the point. “We have plenty of potatoes,” Gréta María Grétarsdóttir, CEO of the Krónan supermarket chain remarked. “But the quality of Icelandic potatoes is not as good as Icelanders are accustomed to…these are not the first-class Icelandic potatoes that Icelanders are used to getting.”

After reevaluating of the situation on Tuesday, the Advisory Committee has reversed its position. The proposed suspension of customs duties was presented to domestic producers, who were given four days to respond. However, according to Ólafur Stephensen, the CEO of The Icelandic Federation of Trade, there are two Icelandic potato farmers who “are holding the potato market hostage,” so whether the suspension will actually go into effect is still an open question.