08 February 2023

It has recently been reported by the BBC that a waste collection firm in Brighton has been told by lawyers for the Lord of the Rings franchise to change its name from “Lord of the Bins”, because it is too similar to “Lord of the Rings”.

Lord of the Bins collects household, building and office waste across East Sussex and West Sussex and also uses the strapline “One Ring to Remove It All”, which apparently it has also been asked to remove.

The Sussex 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 trade mark infringement and alleging that the public would confuse the two businesses.

A worldwide Hobbit/Lord of the Rings entertainment franchise versus a Sussex-based waste management company looks a little David/Goliath. Clearly the Sussex company branding is “tongue in cheek”/humorous and is self-aware of its referential nod to the Lord of the Rings franchise, in both trading name and strapline. Is the Sussex company bringing Lord of the Rings into disrepute or mocking it even? And is that a reason why it should be forced to rebrand and drop its slogan?

It is extremely unlikely that Middle-earth Enterprises will have specifically trade-marked “waste management” as part of their trade mark protections, and also it is unclear whether there actually would be any confusion in the public’s mind that the businesses were connected. Therefore this is not a slam-dunk for Middle-earth Enterprises.

The Sussex company said that rebranding would cost them thousands and told the BBC that “anyone in their right mind knows we're a completely separate and non-competitive business."

Without seeing the exact terms of Middle-earth’s case it is difficult to judge how much of this could simply be attributed to a sense of humour failure, and how much stacks up in law, but we have acted for clients in similar predicaments and will always try and navigate a way through.

For any trade mark or other intellectual property queries, please contact Brian Levine at