UPDATED: The Tonga Sports chief executive is expected to arrive in Auckland this afternoon after dispute and legal action threats emerged over the rights to the Mate Ma’a Tonga logo and name.
Some people in the Tongan community in Auckland have threatened legal actions while some community activists and Mate Ma’a Tonga supporters fear the dispute could disrupt the Tongan tide.
Supporters said the community’s māfana spirit in preparing for the upcoming Test against New Zealand in Auckland on June 25 was high and controversy like this could affect it.
The dispute stemmed from the rights to print the national rugby league name Mate Ma’a Tonga and logo on jerseys, hoodies and t-shirts for the Mate Ma’a Tonga supporters.
Responding to queries from Kaniva Tonga news, Sports chief executive Dr Fotu Fisi’iahi said the name Mate Ma’a Tonga had been registered by the outgoing government rugby league body, the Tonga National Rugby League (TNRL) as its intellectual property.
The Tongan government rebranded the current national rugby league organsation as Tonga Rugby League Inc (TRL).
Dr Fisi’iahi said Lawyer William Clive Edwards Jr who was secretary for the TNRL had granted the government’s TRL permission to use the name Mate Ma’a Tonga after a request from the Prime Minister.
Dr Fisi’iahi said TRL had designed a new logo for the Mate Ma’a Tonga, which the national team would use during the upcoming rugby league match and during the Rugby World Cup 2022.
He said they held a meeting with the TNRL and were all happy with the new logo.
It is understood that the same new logo is being printed by Nasita Production on sport garments it has designed for the supporters.
Dr Fisi’iahi said the government had given the right to print the logo on garments for the Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league supporters to Veili Pāongo and his Nasita production.
“I am at the airport now to fly to Auckland in case there will be any further query”, Dr Fisi’iahi told Kaniva News.
Dr Fisi’iahi’s confirmation came after Tongan Community activist Melino Maka warned some sport printing merchants including Tongans in Auckland about using of the name Mate Ma’a Tonga. Maka told a local Facebook livestream news outlet he was working for the TNRL committee in New Zealand and they oversaw the equipment for the TNRL’s teams in Tonga.
Pāongo said Maka sent him a letter from his lawyer warning him to stop printing the Mate Ma’a Tonga logo. Pāongo said the letter from Bowie Yorke Technology & Intellectual Property, which was seen by Kaniva News, was referring to an old logo used by the TNRL. He said his Mate Ma’a Tonga supporters’ garments used the TRL’s new logo.
Pāongo also said in 2017 a lawyer for Will ‘Ilolahia’s Waiata Trust wrote and warned him against his business. The lawyer told Pāongo that his use of a Mate Ma’a Tonga “design imitating the Crest not only infringes TNRL’s copyright but also gives our client a number of causes of action against you”.
Dr Fisi’iahi said the government’s TRL board did not recognise Maka and ‘Ilolahia and their various groups.