All Blacked out... name gets red card

By Nicholas Jones

Khaled Sophie says he can't afford to have all his signs and cards changed. Photo / Brett Phibbs
Khaled Sophie says he can't afford to have all his signs and cards changed. Photo / Brett Phibbs

A small business owner whose company has the same name as the All Blacks has painted out his signs and business cards after the Rugby Union threatened legal action to protect its trademarks.

Khaled Sophie's New Lynn business has been called All Black Tyres and Automotive Care since he registered it with the Companies Office in January last year.

But last month Mr Sophie received a letter from the Rugby Union's lawyers that said his business was infringing on several NZRU trademarks.

Mr Sophie was ordered to change his business name and rebrand his store so anything similar to the NZRU's trademarks were no longer visible, or face legal action.

He was also told to pay $1500 to cover the NZRU's legal fees.

Mr Sophie said he would like to challenge the rugby union in court, but could not afford to: "They are stronger than me and richer than me, I can't face them".

Instead, he offered to drop the "All" and be called "Black Tyres and Automotive Care" - a compromise that was rejected.

Mr Sophie has now changed the business name to All Season Tyres and Automotive Care.

But he said he does not have the $30,000 needed to update all his signs, and so in the meantime has painted over the "Black" in his largest sign.

A fresh batch of business cards printed last month have been given a similar treatment, despite the Rugby Union asking that they be destroyed.

"I just don't have the money to destroy them and print more," Mr Sophie explained.

He said he found the order to remove the silver ferns from his branding to be particularly galling.

Several neighbouring businesses display their own versions of the silver ferns, as does the Companies Office he used to change the name of his business.

"I told them the fern belongs to every New Zealander, it's on everything from T-shirts to kids' stickers."

But NZRU commercial manager Paul Dalton said the union relied on commercial sponsorship to support rugby across the country and had to protect its trademarks.

"If businesses are able to use the All Blacks name and our fern trademark without having a relationship with the NZRU, this devalues the investments that our family of sponsors are making."

- NZ Herald

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