Lord of the Bins!! A very creative name don’t you think?? However…
The waste collection company based in Brighton have been approached by the legal team for the Lord of the Rings franchise and have asked them to change their name and their strapline “One Ring to Remove It All” because it is too similar to “Lord of the Rings”.
This raises some important issues, for example if the waste company loses the case, they will be forced to rebrand which will cost thousands of pounds and they told the BBC that “anyone in their right mind knows we’re a completely separate and non-competitive business.”
The Brighton based company said it was sent a cease and desist by Middle-earth Enterprises (which owns the worldwide rights to The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy) claiming trademark infringement and alleging that the public would confuse the two businesses.
Would people really think that a small waste company in Brighton are endorsed by or affiliated to Lord of The Rings?
The function of a trademark is to act as an indication of origin and not to gain a monopoly over the market. It is fair to say that Middle-earth Enterprises will not be venturing into waste management anytime soon, so is there really a dispute here about the public assuming the Lord of the Bins are associated with the franchise?
Is this another case of the larger company taking their protection too far? Or are they within their rights to enforce the protection they have through trademark law?
There have been many cases recently involving products such as Colin the Caterpillar and Aldi’s gin and tonic bottles which have been in the news and have raised awareness for the public to such trademark cases.
From the Middle-earth Enterprises view, they are within their right to protect the brand they have built and can enforce the rights they have been granted. But a more sensible and commercial approach could be taken by the legal teams to avoid unnecessary action being taken against such small companies, which could lead them to stop trading.
The name is a tongue in cheek reference to a well-known film and it would be a shame if they have to stop trading under this name because of the proposed legal action.
The bigger brands need to assess their claims on a case-by-case basis and really take into consideration how big of a problem a small waste company could be to a global franchise when it comes to the public being confused by the two businesses.
Written by Craig Kelly, Corporate/Commercial Solicitor, Greenwoods.