Trademark of Mate Ma‘a Tonga name by New Zealand company  outrages rugby league fans

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Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league fans and businesses are not happy after it was revealed that a New Zealand company has trademarked the name, while two other bodies had their applications to register the name put on hold.

Mate Ma’a Tonga slogan has been trademarked in New Zealand

The trademark has been registered by Mate Ma’a Tonga Ltd while Iese Miti Tata’s application to register Mate Ma’a Tonga National League and Mate Ma’a Tonga Rugby League New Zealand’s request is now on hold.

Mate Ma’a Tonga Ltd was a company registered in New Zealand to an address in Grey Lynn  in April 2018 by Josaih Maile Latamai Koloamatangi.

Tongan fans and sponsors said the move amounted to “heritage-highjacking, politics” and hunger for money.

Mate Ma’a Tonga or Die For Tonga is a common Tongan slogan with a much wider cultural and traditional significance.

Its history goes back to the establishment of Tonga College in 1882 where the slogan was used as the school’s motto after a dispute between King George Tupou I and the founder of Tupou College, Dr James Eagan Moulton.

Protecting the brand name is something most businesses would do, to prevent a rival Mate Ma’a Tonga products or services popping up next door or a rival sports tournament being held without permission but this has enraged the fans.

Well-known Tongan singer Melenau Lino, sings the Tonga National Anthem during Tonga and New Zealand
Oceania Cup game in June 2019. Photo/Fox Sports News (Screenshot)

Well-known Tongan singer Melenau Lino, who triggered strong emotions among Mate Ma’a Tonga supporters, when she sang the Tonga National Anthem during Tonga and New Zealand Oceania Cup game in June last year said she did not want to lose the team.

She said she believed the name should stay with the rugby league team and the move by some people to control it was sad.

“It was the name that promotes worldwide in rugby league and I feel every Tongan will be disappointed if the team loses the slogan,” she told Kaniva News.

The director of Nasita Production, one of the biggest designers of Mate Ma’a Tonga T-shirts and team uniforms and fan  clothing said any other slogans for the team never beat the Mate Ma’a Tonga.

He said when the team was renamed as Kau To’a after the ousted Tonga National League Board prevented the Mate Ma’a Tonga team and its logo from joining the Oceania Cup last year people still referred to the team as Mate Ma’a Tonga.

“Every Tongan is proud to be associated with name because it sends out a very compelling message they have to die for Tonga no matter what,” Nasita Production Director Veili Paongo told Kaniva News.

He said the former TNRL board sent out a form last year demanding that anybody who wanted to use the Mate Ma’a Tonga slogan and logo had to ask permission from them and pay before selling items to their customers.

Tekiteki Kinikini, an administrator of the Aotearoa Mate Ma’a Tonga Supporters group, which has more than 25,000 members on Facebook, said the slogan was exceptionally unique.

“We have no choice but to change it because the Koloamatangis owned it legally.”

Last year a letter circulated on social  media which was claimed to come from former TNRL Chair Siaosi Koloamatangi prohibiting businesses in New Zealand from selling any Mate Ma’a Tonga products without his permission.

The letter drew an angry reaction, with many people saying it was an attempt to own something that belonged to the country as a whole.

Kaniva News has contacted Tonga’s Minister of Law and the new Tonga Ma’a Tonga rugby league chair for comment and is awaiting a response.

The main points

  • Mate Ma’a Tonga rugby league fans and businesses are not happy after it was revealed that a New Zealand company has trademarked the name, while two other bodies had their application to register the name put on hold.
  • The trademark has been registered by Mate Ma’a Tonga Ltd while Iese Miti Tata’s application to register Mate Ma’a Tonga National League and Mate Ma’a Tonga Rugby League New Zealand’s request is now on hold.