An English waste firm called ‘Lord of the Bins’ has been ordered to change its name by the company that owns the licensing rights to JRR Tolkien’s iconic fantasy titles. The legal dispute is the latest in a series of skirmishes between Middle-Earth Enterprises and small businesses paying homage to Tolkien’s work.
Based in Brighton, ‘Lord of the Bins’ is a two-man business that collects household and commercial waste. Its owners, Nick Lockwood and Dan Walker, told The Sun last week that they recently received a cease and desist letter from Middle-Earth Enterprises ordering them to rename their company and drop their slogan: “One ring to remove it all.”
“You have made use of names and slogans highly similar to the Lord of the Rings,” the letter reportedly read. “Your activity amounts to an infringement of our client’s trademark rights,” it continued, stating that the franchise owners reserved the right to “seek damages” over the bin company’s “unlawful activity.”
Lockwood told the newspaper that the waste collection business will continue, albeit after he and Walker spend thousands of pounds on rebranding “to appease a multibillion-pound company.”
“If we don’t turn up on time, no one’s going to chuck their Lord of the Rings DVD in the bin,” he said. “And if they bring out a box-office smash, I don’t think more people are going to ring up for waste collection. It’s just bully-boy tactics.”
JRR Tolkien sold the rights to ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘The Lord of the Rings’ to United Artists in 1968. Middle-Earth Enterprises, formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises and owned by several film production companies over the years, has been in charge of licensing rights to the franchise since the late 1970s.
During that time, the company has taken legal action against a number of small businesses that it accused of infringing on its intellectual property. A pub in Southampton named ‘The Hobbit’ was ordered to change its name and remove its signature ‘Frodo’ and ‘Gandalf’ cocktails in 2012, while ‘The Hungry Hobbit,’ a cafe in Birmingham, was issued a similar order in 2011.
The company itself was sued by Tolkien’s estate in 2012, with the author’s descendants arguing that Middle-Earth Enterprises had no right to license video games based on his works. The dispute was settled out of court in 2017.