Nobody tosses a dwarf: The Hobbit fights back

Earlier this year, the IPKat’s attention was drawn to news that a pub in Southampton called The Hobbit had been threatened with legal action by the Saul Zaentz Company (“SZC”). A division of the Californian based SZC called Middle-earth Enterprises owns rights in J.R.R. Tolkien’s literary works, including The Hobbit. Its licensees include Hollywood names such as Warner Brothers, New Line Cinema and EA (Electronic Arts) but -- before March 2012 -- neither the Southampton publicans nor the pub’s freeholder, Punch Taverns. SZC sought to prevent the Hampshire pub from using the precious name.

Good news for the pub?
SZC's Gandalf the Wise
does not have
rights of audience ...
Sir Ian ‘Gandalf’ McKellen and Stephen ‘Master of Laketown’ Fry, who feature in the forthcoming Hobbit film directed by Peter Jackson, decided that the forces of SZC ‘shall not pass’ and offered to pay the licence fees on behalf of the pub. SZC set these at about $100 per annum. The IPKat was referred to a recent local BBC article by Zoe Birtle which seems to show that, five months on, the case remains unsettled and the pub has been fundraising to pay for the related legal fees. At the time of writing, an announcement on its Facebook site puts the total raised at £60,000 after a fundraising event on 11 August which included ‘Chef Bernie’s Caribbean BBQ’ and, as I was told by a member of staff, the sale of t-shirts online. Sadly no searchlights/gobos this time.

As the IPKat noted in March, SZC have registered HOBBIT as a trade mark in various Classes. A quick search shows it has also registered other marks under
Class 32 Beers; mineral and aerated waters and other non-alcoholic drinks; fruit drinks and fruit juices; syrups and other preparations for making beverages; and

Class 33 Alcoholic drinks (except beers).
These include GANDALF (Community Trade Mark E6455943 in 2009) and BILBO (UK Trade Mark 2473039 in 2008 with a Community Trade Mark E6460802 also filed). The Southampton pub might consider including provisions within the SZC negotiations for its themed pint-sized cocktails which are named after various characters from Lord of the Rings.

This is not the first time SZC has brought hobbit-related actions. In late 2011 it was reported to have demanded that a company that had named its holiday cabins ‘Hobbit Houses’ remove the Tolkienian reference. A Minnesota based company, ‘Hobbit Travel’, which had been operating since 1976 successfully defended a US action against SZC in 2008 and was granted summary judgment on the basis of laches.

A katpat goes to Philippa Malas for preparing this text.
Nobody tosses a dwarf: The Hobbit fights back Nobody tosses a dwarf: The Hobbit fights back Reviewed by Jeremy on Monday, August 20, 2012 Rating: 5

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