A refuse firm in Brighton called Lord of the Bins has been ordered by lawyers to change its name after being accused of breaching trademark laws.
The two-man waste collection business was contacted by Middle-earth Enterprises, which owns the worldwide rights to The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Nick Lockwood and Dan Walker run the company, which collects household, building and office waste across East Sussex and West Sussex.
The pair said they have been issued with a cease and desist notice after it was claimed they were in breach of the well-known franchise’s trademarks.
As well as changing the firm’s name and website, they have been forced to ditch their company slogan – “One ring to remove it all”.
Lockwood, 36, told the Sun: “If we don’t turn up on time, no one’s going to chuck their Lord of the Rings DVD in the bin. 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 bullyboy tactics.”
He added: “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”.
Walker, also 36, said: “We can’t afford to fight them. We’re just trying to make people smile and make a living.”
It is not the first example of global firms flexing their 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.
Jel Singh Nagra changed the name of his convenience store in West Allotment, North Tyneside, after Sainsbury’s said its original name, Singhsbury’s, was too similar to its own branding.
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”.
Middle-earth Enterprises has been approached for a comment.