The St Andrews Golf Company, based just outside the Fife town, were shocked to find the St Andrews Links Trust objected to trademarks the firm tried to register with the Intellectual Property Office.
The company, which counts Alex Salmond among fans of its high-quality golf clubs, say the opposition is “outrageous.”
The St Andres Links Trust, the “Home of Golf” which runs seven courses including the world-famous Old Course, says it holds the rights to use the name “St Andrews” when associated with golf.
They say if the company wishes to use the name in a trademark around the world a licence would have to be paid.
The company, which is made up of a number of club makers in the town, has been in business for more than 130 years.
Ewen Glen, chief executive of the St Andrews Golf Company, said: “What has happened is absolutely outrageous.
“The trust was set up to run the golf courses and it is dripping with money received from the public in green fees.
“Money and power seems to have gone to its head and [it is] now resorting to bullying and threatening businesses that have been in St Andrews for generations.
“I fully understand that the ‘St Andrews’ name needs to be protected from the threat of counterfeiting and copying but the trust is acting like a hard-nosed commercial company, rather than a not-for-profit trust.
“[The trustees] are pretending to be the only legitimate custodians and seem to want to play God with the name of St Andrews.”
He continued: “We have been told by the trust they will take us all the way legally even if it means going to judicial review and they have made it clear they will spend as much as it takes to knock our company out of this battle.
“That could happen because we simply do not have the same financial clout as the trust and I think that is a misuse of what is effectively public money.
“The trust seems happy to go to war with people like us – but we are not alone.
“The trust already has had battles with other prominent businesses in the town.”
He called for an independent body to be set up which would regulate who could use the title St Andrews, similar to the system in the Champagne region of France, which protects local producers of sparkling wine.
A spokesman for the St Andrews Links Trust said international licences were sold by the trust which benefited worthy causes in the town, but the amount was commercially sensitive and would not be revealed.
He said: “The Links Trust courses are the oldest and most renowned in the world and often referred to simply as St Andrews.
“The trustees view it as their duty to reduce the danger of misrepresentation and to nurture what the name symbolises around the world.
“A number of individuals and businesses, both in Scotland and beyond, were using our intellectual property without permission and, in order to protect our commercial interests, we began a programme of trademark and brand protection.”
He said many “local stakeholders” supported their action, and efforts made to reach an agreement with the St Andrews Golf Company had not met with success.
He said: “In this case [we] were left with no opportunity but to register a legal objection.”