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Page last updated at 07:31 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 08:31 UK

Legal threat to 'All Blacks' team


New Zealand object to 'All Blacks' moniker

Launceston rugby club is being threatened by New Zealand Rugby Union with legal action over their use of the name "All Blacks".

Launceston had tried to trademark the name "Cornish All Blacks", which the club is known as due to their distinctive black kit.

But New Zealand Rugby Union has objected to the Cornish club's move.

They see the "All Blacks" moniker as being linked solely with the New Zealand national rugby union side.

We do not believe that any reasonable person could mistake Launceston RFC for the New Zealand national side and we have never sought to imply that the two are linked

Launceston RFC president Tony Randel

"The New Zealand Rugby Union has, during the course of more than 100 years of test match rugby, built a significant reputation in the All Blacks name," Paul Dalton, the NZRFU's commerical director said in a statement to the BBC.

"In the professional era, the name "All Blacks" is a highly recognisable, and commercially valuable, brand, with the NZRFU relying heavily on it for its revenue which, in turn, is vital to sustaining rugby at all levels in New Zealand."

And he says that the NZRFU will defend themselves against anyone who tries to trade off the name "All Blacks".

"While imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, the NZRFU has no alternative but to oppose any efforts by third parties to claim legal rights in the All Blacks name, or to commercially benefit from their association with it," he said.

But Launceston say they have been known as the "All Blacks" since the club was formed in 1948. They wore black kits as after the war when material was scarce it was the easiest colour to dye clothing and make up kit.

"We do not believe that any reasonable person could mistake Launceston RFC for the New Zealand national side and we have never sought to imply that the two are linked, nor have we tried to trade on their name," said Launceston RFC president Tony Randel.

New Zealand
New Zealand say Launceston are infringing on their copyright

"Launceston Rugby Football Club have sought to trademark the name Cornish All Blacks in order to protect our commercial property and to prevent rogue traders from producing counterfeit versions of our kit.

"We were dismayed but unfortunately not surprised when the New Zealand RFU objected to this move," he added.

The irony is that the New Zealand national team became known as the "All Blacks" while playing a match in Cornwall.

The side, which was touring the UK in 1908, were referred to as the "All Backs" by a journalist at the game who was referring to the running rugby they played, but a mistake back the newspaper saw the name "All Blacks" printed.

The Launceston team also fear that their work with Cancer Research UK could be affected if they are forced to change their name.

This season they launched a pink away kit in order to help raise money for the disease.

"We believe that our activities in this area may be threatened if we are no longer allowed to use the nickname Cornish All Blacks as many hundreds of replica kits will have to be disposed of," Randel said.

The New Zealand RFU say they have contacted Launceston twice this year asking them to withdraw their trademark application.

But Randel says the requests have not come directly from the New Zealand RFU.

"All communications have been through their trade mark attorneys and the UK Intellectual Property Office," he said.

"We believe that, should they get in contact with us, they will soon appreciate that we are no commercial threat to them whatsoever and still hope to negotiate an amicable settlement.

And while it seems this situation may have to be settled in the courts, the Cornish All Blacks say they would not mind settling it on the pitch instead.

"In order to show our goodwill towards the New Zealand RFU, we would welcome the New Zealand national team down to Polson Bridge at any time for a match," Randel said.

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see also
Ireland set for Launceston return
22 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
Launceston beaten in Birmingham
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B'ham and Solihull v Launceston photos
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Australia 24-28 New Zealand
13 Sep 08 |  Rugby Union
Launceston 37-29 Stourbridge
13 Oct 08 |  Rugby Union
Launceston v Stourbridge photos
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