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APIA, Samoa (April 7, 1999 - PACNEWS)---A disagreement over the rights to the name of the country’s rugby team, Manu Samoa, is escalating.

A former diplomat, claiming he created the concept, is threatening legal action against any use of the name Manu Samoa without his permission.

Ulupoao Ata Maiai, formerly based in Samoa’s High Commission in Brussels, has maintained that he came up with the concept as a marketing tool during the team’s 1989 UK and European tour.

The word manu has several meanings according to Ulupoao, who said he wanted to keep the Manu Samoa concept "a flexible one" for promoting the country.

"You could market it in relation to a bird for instance, or a rugby warrior or an emerging phenomenon," he said. Depending on the context, manu could be used to describe a creature -- a bird or a cow, as in "manu palagi" (or white man’s creature) -- or refer to something that is developing, surfacing or even smells, as in "it smells manu, like coconut oil."

"At no stage have I sought acknowledgment from anybody, but the concept has been liberally used in the past, " said Ulupoao, adding that he was now going through the copyright procedures to register his rights to the name.

While the Samoa Rugby Football Union has made no public statement on the issue, it now holds the trademark.

Team members watched as a deluge of products, including hamburgers and buses, called Manu Samoa sprung up after the 1991 World Cup, the team’s peak in popularity.

Teo S. T. Faaiuaso, a high chief, has joined critics that say Ulupoao has no economic or moral right to the name of Manu Samoa -- or indeed any legal right under the Copyright Act of 1998.

The name belongs to the district of Falealili, in particular Sapunaoa village, where there is a chiefly title of that name, Teo says.

Teo claims Ulupoao did not create the name at all and confirms that when Falealili chiefs heard that the national rugby team had been named Manu Samoa, they went to see the Head of State, Malietoa Tanumafili II, to ask about it.

Malietoa, who has historical ties to the chiefly title of Manu Samoa, asked that the name be allowed to remain with the rugby team in the national interest and, "his wish was respected by Falealili," Teo said.

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