The estate of legendary fantasy author J.R.R. Tolkien has settled its lawsuit with film studio Warner Bros. over what the estate claims was the unauthorized licensing of its intellectual property for gambling purposes.
In 2012, the Tolkien estate, along with publisher Harper Collins, sued Warner Bros. for the unauthorized use of characters, imagery and other intellectual property associated with Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) and The Hobbit novels. Warner had licensed the products to casino software developer Microgaming, which created a slots title based on The Fellowship of the Ring, the first volume of the LOTR trilogy.
While Warner had worked out a deal with the Tolkien estate, the Tolkien camp argued that the deal covered only the sale of “tangible” merchandise, and not the “morally-questionable (and decidedly non-literary) world of online and casino gambling.”
Amusingly, the Tolkien estate didn’t cotton on to the fact that people were gambling on Gollum until a couple years after Microgaming signed its digital licensing deal with Warner. As legend has it, a Tolkien estate attorney felt the eye of Sauron upon him after receiving an email promo pitching the LOTR slot.
Microgaming quickly pulled the offending slot from the market but the estate’s lawsuit sought an immediate halt to any further bastardization of Tolkien’s good name as well as damages to the tune of $80m for having allegedly “outraged Tolkien’s devoted fan base.”
Warner, along with its film production subsidiary New Line Cinema and Hobbit rights-holder Saul Zaentz Co, countersued, claiming the Tolkien estate had breached the terms of its contract and cost the studio untold millions by preventing it from licensing casino titles to capitalize on the 2012 release of the first Hobbit movie.
The suit was resolved this week via an out of court settlement, terms of which weren’t disclosed, except to say that the parties had “amicably” come to an arrangement to drop all claims and counterclaims. The settlement further states that no party in the dispute is entitled to recover fees or costs and that the parties look forward to working together in the future, assuming everybody’s lawyers pay a little more attention to the fine print this time.