The timing couldn’t have come at a worse time given that the New Zealand premiere of the “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” is a week away, but there really is no such as timing when it comes to lawsuits. And as Warner Brothers found out, the estate of “The Lord of the Rings” author J.R.R. Tolkien and publisher HarperCollins are coming for them to the tune of an $80 million lawsuit stemming from the licensing of characters and plots from the films that have been used in online and gambling games.
According to Reuters, the lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles earlier this week, with the Tolkien estate and HarperCollins alleging that Warner Bros. and its subsidiary New Line Cinema infringed on copyrights by licensing rights to the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” brands to casino slot machines, online gambling, games and downloads.
Apparently, the two aren’t all that happy that Warner Bros. used Tolkien’s name and brand attached to casino slot machines, among other things, thus overstepping their rights on merchandising the Lord of the Rings brand, at least according to the Tolkien estate and HarperCollins.
“Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of defendants’ rights, but this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien’s devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien’s legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works,” the lawsuit stated.
The lawsuit is looking into getting an injunction against what the suit claims as Warner Bros. infringing online slot machine games and other products that exceed the scope of their licensing agreement with the Tolkien estate and Warner Bros. And that doesn’t even count the $80 million the two parties are seeking in damages.
That’s a lot of 0’s after that 8. Just goes to show that both the Tolkien estate and HarperCollins are pretty serious about this lawsuit. Hopefully, it gets resolved in a manner that doesn’t take the spotlight away from the actual movie, The Hobbit, that a lot of people have been waiting years to see.