Aker fights for its name

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Norwegian industrial concern Aker ASA, headed by tycoon Kjell Inge Røkke, is trying to prevent other companies from using “Aker” in their names. Targets of Aker’s zeal accuse Aker of “bullying” and out-gunning small business.

Kjell Inge Røkke's staff are working hard to prevent anyone else from using the "Aker" name. PHOTO: Views and News

Newspaper Dagens Næringsliv (DN) reported over the weekend that Aker officials have taken legal steps against no less than 14 small businesses since registering the company’s name with patent authorities in 2007. DN reports that so far, the score stands at 8-3 in favor of Aker, with one conflict unresolved and two complaints withdrawn.

Aker spokesman Atle Kigen justifies what some of Aker’s targets consider tough tactics by claiming that Aker is a “well-known and well-established name in Norway and we are keen to protect our values.” He conceded to DN that Aker “works systematically and reacts automatically (to Norway’s patent authorities) when new companies are registered with the word ‘Aker’ in their names.”

Among those feeling the heat from Aker have been small companies like Aker Bil, Aker PR and Aker Mur og Tre. Most of their proprietors claim they can’t understand how such a large concern as Aker can be so sensitive, or worry that consumers could be misled.

They also point out that Aker is a geographical place in Norway, with long historical roots. Even one of the big local hospitals in Oslo is called “Aker Sykehus,” and two of Oslo’s official districts are called “Nordre Aker” and “Vestre Aker.” It’s therefore natural, they argue, for businesses to use the name.

One small business owner felt forced to shut down his car dealership after getting a complaint from what he called a “torpedo” for Røkke. Another was also angered, claiming that none of Aker ASA’s subsidiaries is involved in car sales or car products. “But then it turns out Aker registered the right to the name for cars, too, just in case they started dealing with them in the future,” said Svein Henning Danielsen, who changed his firm’s name from “Aker Bil” to “Akers Bil” in the hopes of preserving its identity. His case is among those unresolved.

Most others gave up the fight, lacking the money and resources to fight the much larger Aker concern. One, though, opted for a creative switch, quite literally. His firm, Aker PR, simply became “Praker.”

Views and News staff