When it comes to intellectual property, no one is safe – not even Lord of the Bins, a two-man waste collection business in Brighton. The company has been ordered by Middle-earth Enterprises, which owns the worldwide rights to The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy, to change its name after being accused of breaching trademark laws.
Nick Lockwood and Dan Walker, the two men behind Lord of the Bins, have been issued with a cease and desist notice, and have been forced to ditch their company slogan – “One ring to remove it all”. Lockwood, 36, said: “We now have the prospect of spending thousands of pounds and [a lot of] effort on rebranding, to appease a multibillion-pound company. We will survive this storm and continue providing a great service for our city, whatever our name.”
The legal letter reads: “You have made use of names and slogan highly similar to the Lord of the Rings. Your activity amounts to an infringement of our client’s trademark rights.” Lawyers for the franchise also told the businessmen that it reserved the right to “seek damages” over the “unlawful activity”.
This is not the first example of a global firm flexing its legal muscle to force smaller businesses into name changes. In 2017, a shopkeeper dealt with the threat of legal action from Sainsbury’s over his similarly named store by changing its name from Singhsbury’s to Morrisinghs. Last year, the Star Inn at Vogue, named after the hamlet in which it is situated, received a message from the similarly named fashion magazine’s owner asking for a name change because a link “is likely to be inferred”.
Lord of the Bins is the latest victim of a trademark infringement case, and the two-man business has been forced to change its name and website to avoid legal action. While the situation is unfortunate, the two men behind the business remain determined to continue providing a great service for their city – whatever their name may be.