Annual Report

Borghildur Erlingsdóttir, Director General of the ISIPO

Director General’s Address

The entire world’s population has been facing a previously unknown challenge this past year due to the pandemic, and everyone has had to adapt to new and unfamiliar circumstances. The operations and services of the Icelandic Intellectual Property Office are not exempted in this regard, and in a very short span of time all the Office's services were put on electronic form and most employees worked remotely. The ISIPO's employees deserve much praise for their flexibility, adaptability, patience and resilience in these uncertain times where changes occur frequently and unexpectedly.

We have learnt a great deal in a short amount of time and some of the changes will doubtless result in new and improved processes and a better workplace once the world returns to normal. It is also to be hoped that our experience will be of use to improve service and information supply on a permanent basis.
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Activities and mission 2020

The ISIPO had a staff of 36 at the end of the year 2020. Of these, one employee was on childbirth leave, and one employee worked at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) as a Seconded National Expert (SNE).


Production is where registration applications for trademarks, patents and design are assessed and formally processed. The Department decides whether registrations will be accepted or rejected, on a case-to-case basis, and its legal examiners prepare reasoning for rejecting applications. The Department resolves opposition and revocation cases and handles requests for re-establishment of rights. The Department also receives applications for the maintenance of rights, as well as handling requests for change of ownership, mortgaging, licensing and more.


The Operations Department is responsible for a variety of tasks. Among them are receiving inquiries, providing service and consultancy to clients, and issuing the ISIPO Gazette. The Department also manages human resources, IT, system administration, archival control, procurement, payroll processing, finances and strategy formulation, as well as communication in connection with international co-operation projects. The year 2020 was characterised by an emphasis on electronic services. The reception as such was closed for much of the year due to the COVID-19 epidemic and a large percentage of employees worked remotely.IT experts in the Department made working remotely possible with regard to equipment and secure connections and it took them barely one weekend to achieve this at the beginning of the first wave of the epidemic. Since that time, it has been possible to work remotely on all tasks within the Office, and the same goes for all services provided to clients.


ISAC Accreditation is an independent department within the ISIPO and is the national body with responsibility for accreditation in Iceland. The department has two employees who handle day-to-day and professional operations. When conducting accreditation assessments and/or inspections, the department recruits technical assessors or experts to help with assessing conformity with technical requirements. The Accreditation Department strives to provide good service to clients, to participate in essential international cooperation and promote cooperation between accreditation stakeholders, which may include claimholders, conformity assessment bodies, and users of the service, to name but a few.

Activities and mission 2021

At the end of 2020, a decision was made to update the ISIPO’s strategic policy. This endeavour began in early 2021, and concomitantly the Office’s organisational chart was reviewed. In the revised policy, which remains valid until the end of the year 2021, there is an emphasis on the digital transformation of the ISIPO, which is duly represented in the new organisational chart.

Production Department

The Production Department is where registration applications for trademarks, patents and design are formally processed. The Department accepts or rejects registrations on a case-to-case basis, and its legal examiners prepare reasoning for rejecting applications. The Department resolves opposition and revocation cases and handles requests for re-establishment of rights.

Finance and Operations Department

The tasks of the Finance and Operations Department are related to internal service, i.e. finances, operations, human resources, information technology, archiving and quality, as well as environmental matters.

Customer Service Department

A new core department for service began operations on 1 May 2021 for the purpose of contributing to the introduction of the revised policy. The tasks of the new Service Department include handling the formal processing of applications and inquiries, issuing the ISIPO Gazette, and providing other external services. The objective of the Department will be to establish efficient and user-oriented services.

Director General’s Office

The Director General’s Office handles issues that are common to all the Departments of the Intellectual Property Office, such as internal and external communications, digital development, and policy implementation.

It also provides legal counselling and works independently on specific tasks or policy areas in cooperation with the Director General or Department Heads.

Domestic co-operation

The ISIPO stresses the importance of good cooperation with domestic stakeholders in order to increase knowledge about intellectual property rights, improve the service offered to clients, and promote additional and better use of intellectual property rights in Iceland. The Office has therefore over the years established various forms of cooperation with parties involved with industry, education, research, innovation and entrepreneurship in this country, as intellectual property can be found in many diverse places. These include the University of Iceland, Reykjavík University, the Federation of Icelandic Industries, Business Iceland, Innovation Center Iceland and Icelandic Startups.

The ISIPO also carries on a dialogue with intellectual property representatives in Iceland. It has regular meetings with the Icelandic Association of Patent and Trademark Representatives and the Association of Trademarks Experts in order to share information and ensure that the Institution can provide its clients with the best possible service.

International co-operation

The ISIPO actively engages with its international partners for the purpose of sharing of information, experience and knowledge between intellectual property institutions in Europe. Such development becomes ever more important in times of globalisation as commerce, industry and research and development activities are increasingly conducted on an international level.

To a considerable extent, these efforts take place with the involvement of the European Patent Office (EPO), although the ISIPO takes an active part in the management of the Institution as the representative of one of its 38 member states. The Director General of the ISIPO was elected Vice Chairperson of the EPO’s Executive Committee for a term of three years in May of 2019, in addition to which the ISIPO participates in various projects in connection with information technology and law, all of which are done for the purpose of making information about patents and applications more accessible to users on a global level, and harmonising the member states’ interpretation of comparable legislation. Furthermore, employees of the Office take part in both meetings and study courses given by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), of which Iceland is a member. The ISIPO is also a participant in extensive cooperation efforts involving the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), the Nordic Patent Institute (NPI) and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA),as well as in cooperation between the patent and intellectual property institutions of the Nordic and Baltic countries.

Response to COVID-19

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit this country in the month of March, extensive measures were taken to adapt the ISIPO’s activities to the altered situation. In that regard, the main emphasis was placed on the security and well-being of employees but it was also stressed that the new circumstances that had arisen should have as little impact as possible on the ISIPO’s activities and services.

The Office's reception was temporarily closed on 16 March. In a short time the Office's IT experts made it possible for employees to continue their work remotely by providing the requisite equipment and secure connections, and in only a few days a large part of employees had switched to working remotely. In spite of these changes, there was no sign of any significant change in the number of applications nor of any effect on our employees’ productivity. On the contrary, there was a great increase in the number of trademark applications that were processed during the year compared with the previous year.

All services have been provided electronically while the ISIPO's reception has been largely closed since the epidemic began. It is possible to book a teleconference with a consultant through the home page, and there has been much demand during the period. There was also a particular emphasis on electronic services in order to be able to receive all data and missives electronically.

We are ready to serve

Services of the ISIPO 

In 2020 the implementation of various measures were continued with the aim of building up and improving services by using state-of-the-art technology with due consideration of the needs of our clients. These measures are in line with the policy set out for the years 2018-2021 to increase the Office’s professionalism and visibility, improve the digital user experience and introduce new and improved services. This proved to be of good use when the pandemic hit at the beginning of the year and the reception had to be closed. New and improved services made it possible for us to maintain the same level of service and good communication with clients. 

Digital services 

The ISIPO plans to introduce more electronic solutions in the new year, and to work further towards the development of digital services. It will also launch the "Digital ISIPO" project as apart of completing certain milestones on the Office's digital pathway.  

Pre-booked consultancy in the form of telephone calls or teleconferences increased steadily over the year. The number of electronic inquiries also increased. The home page includes the option of leaving a message at any time around the clock.   

Digital invoices

Since 1 May all the invoices issued by the ISIPO have been on electronic form. The goal is to reduce the expense for all concerned, to modernise the government’s commercial environment by offering more electronic services and reduce the Office's environmental impact. The ISIPO is itself responsible for sending invoices to its clients. They can be accessed in the inbox at Í The option of receiving invoices electronically by e-mail is also offered. The electronic issue of invoices is consistent with the ISIPO’s policy of 2018, which included a particular emphasis on ensuring that the Office's activities have as little impact on the environment as possible, and that the office will actively seek ways to ways to reduce waste.

Electronic submitting of documents

It is now possible to send all documents and applications electronically, i.e. via electronic application systems or by e-mail. In spite of this, the ISIPO's clients are of course still permitted to submit applications and missives in paper form.

In light of the provisions of the Administrative Procedures Act no. 37/1993 concerning electronic administration, the ISIPO accepts electronic documents as valid when originals are required by law or regulations, and the Office will also continue to accept hand-written signatures without demanding the original copy of the relevant document.

The ISIPO does however reserve the right to demand original paper copies of documents in such cases when this is deemed to be required, such as when it is likely that the documents are not unaltered from the originals.

Madrid e-Filing 

In October 2020 Iceland became the first Nordic country to introduce Madrid e-Filing, an electronic international application process for trademarks with the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) in Geneva. The ISIPO acts as an intermediary  in this process, which is paper-free, user-friendly, secure and efficient. The electronic process offers applicants direct access to the WIPO’s Madrid Goods & Services Manager for the purpose of checking the classification and preparing a list of goods and services. 

Madrid e-Filing reduces application processing times and irregularities for IP Offices, while simultaneously offering applicants a convenient and time-saving alternative to paper forms. With such advantages, Madrid e-Filing is WIPO's preferred method of receiving international applications.

New electronic form for trademark applications 

Last autumn, a new electronic form for trademark applications was made available. This new form includes various innovations, and is intended to simplify the application process with an improved interface and increased supply of information to the applicant. The application form was also updated to conform to the entry into force of Act no.71/2020 and Regulation no. 850/2020.  The new application tool features: 

New types of trademarks, which were added by an amendment to the Trademark Act on 1 September 2020. 
Applicants can submit a draft for an application before registration takes place. That makes it possible, for example, to review the cost involved with the application, prepare a goods and/or services list, and examine the registrability of a trademark by searching in the ISIPO’s trademark search engine
The list of specified goods and services was elaborated further and the process of preparing lists of goods and/or services was simplified. 
Applicants can now in a simple manner select from a list of goods and/or services that is approved by the ISIPO, the WIPO and the EUIPO. 
Applicants can also give feedback to the Office at the end of the application process.

Information services

Maintaining good communication and dialogue with clients is of the utmost importance to the ISIPO. The Office therefore introduced two new information services during the year.

Customers can now subscribe to the ISIPO Gazette (formerly the Patent Office Gazette) and receive it via email as soon as it is published on the website. The Gazette is published once a month and includes all advertisements and announcements relating to applications and registrations in the field of patents, trademarks, municipal emblems and design.

Hugverkaskot, the ISIPO newsletter is published quarterly and includes news, articles and statistics related to the operations of the Office and other intellectual property related issues.

New English version of the ISIPO website

On 1 July 2020 the ISIPO's new website in English,, was launched. It contains, like its counterpart in Icelandic, the principal information about intellectual property protection in Iceland, search engines and the latest news about its activities.

New types of trademarks

With new types of trademarks, businesses have new opportunities in trademark protection in Iceland. Take part in a entertaining game and guess the right trademark.
How many trademarks do you know?

Amendments to trademark legislation

Comprehensive amendments were made on 1 September 2020 in connection with processing and registering trademarks in Iceland with the entry into force of Act no. 71/2020 amending the Icelandic Trademark Act no. 45/1997. At the same time, a new general regulation regarding trademarks, Regulation no. 850/2020, entered into force. The Act  incorporated of the Directive of the European Parliament and of the Council (EU) 2015/2436 in the field of trademarks into Icelandic law, whereby the approach of the EU member states and the EEA/EFTA-states to examining and registering trademarks has been harmonised in much more detail than before.

Act no. 155/2002 on Collective Marks was cancelled at this important junction, and provisions connected to it were included in the Trademark Act, which now also applies to collective and certification marks. By their very nature, such marks are trademarks, and are principally governed by the same provisions regarding procedure and other aspects as apply to them. However, efforts are currently being made to elaborate and update rules regarding their use.

Types of marks

One major change entailed by the new amendments concerns new opportunities when it comes to the protection of marks in Iceland, as it is no longer required that a mark must be a visible symbol. The only limit is the imagination, and even though the major types of marks are defined in the Regulation, there is room to introduce what may still be unknown. A mark must nevertheless meet criteria for clarity and precision, and the goods and services which a mark is intended to represent must be specified.

A mark may now be elaborated in an application in any manner as long as it is done in a clear, precise, self-contained, easily accessible, intelligible, durable and objective manner, so that the government as well as the public will be able to recognise the clear and precise content of the protection which is granted to the owner by the registration. These criteria are not new as they were stated in the so-called Sieckmann-decision of the European Court of Justice in 2002, Case no. C-273/00, and replace the requirement that a mark must be visible. If the appearance of a mark requires more explanation it is permitted to submit a description with the application, but this is not required unless the mark is of another type than specified in the Regulation. The description must apply exclusively to the mark and may not lead to an expansion of the extent of protection.

Changes to procedure

The procedures of the ISIPO, both during the application stage and after the registration of a mark, are now clearer and more transparent than before, due to the amended Act and a new regulation. The registrability requirements stated in Articles 13 and 14 of the Act have been elaborated further, as has the formal and material examination during the application stage. It is now also permitted, if anyone is of the opinion that a mark should not be registered, to file an objection at the ISIPO. It remains possible to object to a registration after publication in the ISIPO Gazette, or to demand that the registration of a mark be cancelled or limited. The option is available to request that procedure is postponed in the event of negotiations to seek reconciliation for a minimum of two months, and also the transfer of rights to the party so requesting, if the objection is based on stronger rights to a mark.

The procedure previously known as administrative revocation has now, for more differentiation, been divided into invalidation on one hand and revocation on the other. The basis for a claim and the legal effects of each separate path are different, as invalidation results in a mark being considered to have never existed whereas revocation results in the voiding of the validity of a registration from a specific point in time.

The term of protection for marks that are the subject of applications on 1 September 2020 and later is now 10 years from the date of the application, not from the date of registration as is the case for the term of protection for older marks. The five-year required period of use will now be based on the final date of registration, and therefore the marks that are applied for after the amendment of the Act will not be assigned an actual date of registration until after the registration process is completed. The renewal of older marks remains unchanged and continues to be based on the date of registration.

Altered criteria 1 April 2021

Two provisions of Regulation no.850/2020 will not enter into effect until 1 April 2021, cf. paragraph 2 of Article 77.

From that time, new criteria will apply in the assessment of black/white marks and marks that are in tones of grey and the approach ”what you see is what you get” will be adopted – i.e. a mark that is black/white will not include colours other than black/white. However, this will not be retroactive and marks that are black/white or intones of grey that are applied for before the amendment enters into effect will continue to be interpreted in the same manner as before. In this regard, the ISIPO follows the criteria established through the coordination efforts of the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) and published on 15 April 2014: CP4 – Common Communication on the Common Practice of the Scope of Protection of Black and White (”B&W”) Marks.

It will also be permitted to submit lists of goods and services in English instead of Icelandic along with applications submitted on 1 April 2021 and later.

Quality certification and quality system

Since 2013, the ISIPO has had in place a quality system certified according to the ISO 9001 standard for granting and maintaining patents, the registration and maintenance of trademarks and designs, and the system is audited by the German certification agency DQS. The ISO 9001 standard addresses, among other things, management responsibilities, resource management, the development of production and service processes, performance measurements and identification of deviations to promote continual improvement. One of the key components of the standard is to take note of the needs of customers and adapt activities to their wishes, to the extent possible.

In recent years the ISIPO has worked towards adapting the management system even further to the Office’s activities and making it more accessible. The reforms of 2020 mostly concern the remaking of the ISIPO's quality handbook and the introduction of the management system in Microsoft Office 365.

Green Steps and climate policy

In 2020 it was decided to introduce Green Steps, a project through which the ISIPO works towards reducing the environmental impact from its activities and to strengthen the environmental awareness of its employees. The project is implemented in five steps under the guidance of specialists from the Environment Agency of Iceland, and each step consists of between 20-40 actions which institutions must introduce in their activities. An environmental team was appointed specifically for this project, and the plan is that the steps will be completed before the end of the year 2021. The formulation of a climate policy will take place concomitantly with the Green steps in accordance with the Acton Climate Change, which public agencies are obligated to adopt. At the end of the year the ISIPO completed the first step, which was recognised by the Environment Agency of Iceland.

Green accounting

A part of the Green Steps is that institutions implement so-called green accounting, whereby the ISIPO can, among other things, monitor greenhouse gas emissions that result from its activities. The pandemic had a huge impact on the ISIPO's total emissions in 2020, which were reduced by 85.7%. This can be explained by the fact that meetings and study courses abroad were carried out in the form of teleconferences. During the year a decision was made to carbon-offset all the flight trips that are made in relation to the Office's activities, and for that reason 32 trees were planted in the name of the ISIPO for the year 2020.


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When Icelandic applications for patents are analysed by technical field it is soon revealed that the Icelandic fisheries industry and derived industries account for a significant part, and more than one-fifth of Icelandic patent applications in the years 2010-2020 were connected with the fisheries industry.
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Opportunities and value in the protection of intellectual property

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Does the bitch sit with the Mafia?

Trademarks that are contrary to public policy or accepted principles of morality are not registrable. Public policy means the maintenance of law and order in society to such extent as must be deemed necessary, and freedom of expression can be limited for the good of public policy.
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The IP gender gap is a loss to us all

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Technology Classification: the key to the International Patent Classification

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Icelandic IP statistics from 2020


IP registrations at the end of 2020


Thereof 7,488 owned by Icelandic entities


Thereof 87 owned by Icelandic entities


Thereof 135 owned by Icelandic entities

The year 2020


↑ 1.2%


↓ 4.4%


↓ 27.6%

The year 2020
(granted rights)


↑ 47%


↓ 3.9%


↓ 27.6%

The number of Icelandic trademark applications increased by 5.2% in 2020 in spite of the unfavourable economic situation brought on by the COVID-19 epidemic. Decisions to publish trademarks also increased by 47% in 2020 compared to 2019.

The ISIPO received 671 national trademark applications by Icelandic parties in 2020. This is an increase of 5.2% from the previous year.
The total number of trademark applications increased by 1.2% 2020 compared to 2019.
The total number of decisions to publish trademarks* increased by 47% between the years. This increase can be traced to increased ISIPO efforts on trademarks examination.
National patent applications filed by Icelandic parties increased by 8.5% and IS-PCT international applications from Icelandic parties increased by 33%.
Design registrations in Iceland continue to decrease in number between the years. There were only 84 registrations in Iceland in 2020, of which nine were filed by Icelandic entities.


The total number of trademark applications increased slightly between years, i.e. from4,110 applications in 2019 to 4,160 applications in 2020. International applications decreased slightly between years (2,893 in 2019 and 2,851 in2020), while national-level applications increased in number during the same period. In light of the negative economic effects of the COVID-19 epidemic it is especially interesting to see that national-level trademark applications filed by Icelandic parties increased during the year, by 5.2% (671 in 2020 compared to 638 in 2019).

These positive numbers may indicate growth in innovation and marketing operations in Iceland. However, it is also interesting to note that among the Icelandic applications received during the year, a substantial number represented older and already established trademarks that were being registered for the first time. This may indicate that companies have taken the opportunity during the year to take a closer look at their intellectual property issues.

The number of decisions to publish trademarks increased greatly between years, by 47% (4,010 decisions in 2020 compared to 2,727 in 2019). The principal influential factor in this regard is the substantial increase in the number of published international trademarks, of which there were 73% more than in the previous year.

This increase is due to the redoubled efforts to investigate trademarks, which were initiated at the beginning of the year. The ISIPO examined about 4,300 trademarks, compared to 3,000 in 2019. The fact that a high percentage of ISIPO employees worked remotely due to the COVID-19 pandemic had no negative effects at all on the performance of investigations, but rather the contrary.

Renewals of registered trademarks increased by 13.2% between years (3,282 renewals in 2020 compared to 2,900 in 2019). There was an increase in the number of international renewals (10.4%), national-level Icelandic (20%) and national-level foreign (17.3%).

* With the changes in Icelandic trademark law that took effect on 1 September 2020, trademarks are now published for opposition two months before registration. For that reason, this statistical overview displays the number of decisions on trademark registrations to ensure consistency in how the data is presented before and after the new trademark law took effect.


National patent applications decreased by 14.5% between the years. This is particularly due to the decrease in number of applications from foreign parties from 15 to only two applications in 2020. On the other hand, the number of national patent applications from Icelandic parties increased by four between the years, i.e. by 8.5%.

The total number of national-level patents granted in this country in 2020 was the same as the previous year. Four national-level patents were granted to Icelandic parties and five to foreign parties.

The number of Icelandic PCT applications increased by 33% between the years, as 24 such applications were filed in 2020 compared with 18 in 2019. IS-PCT are international PCT applications that are filed in Iceland by an Icelandic applicant.

The number of validated European patents at the ISIPO decreased slightly in 2020 compared to the previous year. In 2020 a total of 1,443 European patents were confirmed in this country compared to 1,502 in 2019, which is a decrease of 3.9%. This is the first time since Iceland became a party to the European Patent Convention that there is a decrease in the number of confirmed patents between years.


Applications for registration of designs decreased by 27.6% between the years. A total of 92 applications for the registration of designs were received in 2020 compared to127 in 2019. This decrease is in no small part due to the reduction in the number of international applications from 111 applications in 2019 to only 74 received in 2020. National-level applications for registration of designs increased by two between years.

The number of registrations of designs also decreased between years. There was a total of 84 design registrations in 2020, which is a reduction by 27.6%. In 2020, the ISIPO had 75 international registrations of designs but the number of national registrations keeps decreasing. Only nine were registered in 2020.

Rulings and decisions

In 2020 the ISIPO made a ruling in 7 objection cases and 11 decisions in cases regarding the validity of a registration. The ISIPO’s rulings and decisions can be viewed by clicking here.

Human resources and operations

Key figures for operations in 2020

The ISIPO operates under Group A of the Treasury, and its budget appropriation is determined in each year’s general budget, without any contributions from the Treasury. The operation is financed with service fees from the domestic and foreign parties who have chosen to protect their intellectual property in Iceland. The Office’s scope of operations is therefore in many ways different from that of other
government bodies, and the Office's activities are determined by the number of applications and other matters which it processes at each time. Various external factors can also influence the number of applications, such as exchange rate developments and the economic conditions that exist in Iceland and abroad.  

ISIPO finances

The finances of the ISIPO were positive in spite of the exceptional circumstances. The Office’s budget appropriation was ISK 552.7m, and the operations are entirely financed with service fees. Operating income was a total of ISK 521.5 m, which is an increase by 11.2% from the previous year. The largest proportion of the income was for trademarks, or 66.4% of the total income, followed by income for patents, which accounted for 33.4%, and income for designs, which was just over 0.2%. The ISIPO’s non-governmental income was ISK 11.6m, which comes in the form of reimbursements from international organisations for travel costs and incurred expenses due to cooperative projects and wage costs for specialists working for the EUIPO. The Office's total income amounted to ISK 533.1m.
Expenses were somewhat lower than estimated in the budget, and this is especially due to the fact that maintenance work for the exterior of the ISIPO's building was not carried out, and also because of lower travel costs. Total expenditure amounted to ISK 515 m, with wage costs being the largest single item of expenditure, i.e. 76%.


521.5 million ISK

Special income:

11.6 million ISK

Operating costs:

515 million ISK



Medium length of employment



Medium age



ISIPO staff

The ISIPO stresses the importance of being a workplace where people want to work and where employees treat each other with respect, share and maintain their knowledge and provide clients with professional and reliable services. The Office’s staff is composed of multi-talented and dynamic individuals who strive to make a good workplace even better with positive communications. The year 2020 was a difficult one for all staff and managers as conventional interactions and physical proximity was largely replaced by remote working and electronic communications.

It is a challenge to maintain cohesion and good morale in such circumstances, but employees gave their all to maintain the connection through work and play under the altered circumstances. In addition to the many electronic conferences which were held regarding the Office's activities, the staff also arranged other electronic events such as bingo, pub quizzes, Christmas party and more.

The number of employees at the end of 2020 was 36. Of these, one employee was on childbirth leave, and one employee worked at the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) as a Seconded National Expert (SNE). Employee turnover was low, about 4%, and mostly involved the hiring of temporary summer workers. Full-time equivalent positions at year-end 2020 were 34.25.

ISIPO employees make a donation to Ljósið

In December the Employee Association of the ISIPO donated ISK 120.000 to Ljósið instead of giving each other Christmas presents. Ljósið is a rehabilitation and support center for cancer patients and their families. The goal of Ljósið is to provide people with specialized rehabilitation and support, with the assistance of professionals to build up physical and mental strength, and also to assist people with setting goals for themselves in order to be more active on a daily basis and thereby improve their quality of life in general. 

Those who would wish to contribute can make a donation to Ljósið by clicking here.