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back to article Lawyers of Mordor menace Hobbit boozer

Brit thesp Sir Ian McKellen has joined the campaign to protect Southampton boozer The Hobbit from the forces of darkness - Californian attack lawyers who claim the pub has infringed their client's trademark. The BBC explains that the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) has dispatched a missive to the Portswood hostelry pointing out it has …

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Anonymous Coward

Release the hounds

If I buy some rights to manufacture car horns in the UK, can I then try and get Hooters shut down across the US?

Wankers.

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Windows

Re: Release the hounds

No, because OBVIOUSLY Hooters is about owls. [eye roll]

But if you do get the rights to the term 'wanker', then you can get all lawyers and politicians to pay you money.

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Re: Release the hounds

I hope SZC take this to court and win....

...because that will open the way for "The Ivy Bush"[1] Public house to sue SZC for unauthorised use of the pub's name in LOTR, say 1/2% of all income from the books and film, seems fair to me.

Are SZC also saying they own the rights to Elijah Wood's face as well? That will come as a bit of a shock to Elijah Wood.

Anyway didn't Tolkien's publishers screw up and forget to register the copyright on the Hobbit/LOTR at some stage?

[1] 181 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 8UQ [2], benn there sine the 1880's and was Tolkien's local for a while.

[2] Not to be confused with the Ivy Bush on Bywater Road in the Shire.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Release the hounds

Unfortunately the lawyers have to chase down any and every Trademark infringements.

Its the law.

Having said that, there were other things that it could do. It could license them the rights for a nominal fee.

Lawyers have to do their job, they just don't have to be dicks about it.

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Pint

I've been drinking here before

Not as a student mind you, but with friends, several times.

When the students are there it is extremely busy and the bogs are always a mess, but it does sell great LotR themed cocktails, different characters for different coloured ones, in a pint glass.

A quick way to get plastered, I can tell you. Just have to be careful outside after consuming the aforementioned cocktails, or you'll fall two metres onto concrete and hit your head, like me - but what's exciting without a little danger?

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Funny

Funny how SZC didn't get touchy about this until the film was due out. Twats.

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TRT
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Coat

Re: Funny

Well, it has us lot Tolkein about it. Sorry.

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jai
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You SHALL NOT SUE!!!!!!

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Stop

Why not change it to...

..."The Boggit" (unless National Lampoon's lawyers object)

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Re: Why not change it to...

Personally, I'd change it to:

"The pub with no name because <COMPANY NAME HERE IN 20-FOOT-HIGH NEON LETTERS> threatened to sue us after 20 years of doing business under our old name which rhymed with 'Mob It'"

Paying for the sign will be cheaper than paying for the lawsuit, and the photos of it will be in every paper by lunchtime. And, it'll be a talking point if they don't back down and you DO keep it as the name. I'd also silently encourage ALL the regulars to only ever refer to it as The Hobbit too.

And I'd send an invitation to the CEO's of that company once a week, too, for my "unhappy hour" where everyone who worked for them would be charged 10 times the normal price.

It probably won't do much more than any other technique would, but it would make your point quite clearly and increase your Facebook campaigns hits dramatically.

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Devil

Re: Why not change it to...

Change it to Fobbit == term used to describe someone who lives within the confines of a Forward Operations Base. :-)

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@Lee Dowling

>Personally, I'd change it to

What a bloody stupid idea. What would that achieve other than to advertise that SZC have been successful in protecting their clients interests and thereby gaining them more business.

You plebs might butt heads like a budgie with a new bell and congratulate each other on how your showing up the bad guys but all you'll get are sore heads and thanks from SZC for the free publicity.

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Re: @Lee Dowling

What don't you undestand?

SCZ owns the rights.

They have to fight all infringements in order to protect those rights.

Could the bar have fought and won? Maybe, but they would have paid a fortune in legal fees and would still have to change some of their marketing materials. It's cheaper to change the theme of the bar.

Could SCZ have licensed the right for a nominal fee? An undisclosed amount? Maybe. But lawyers are trained to be A$$holes.

SCZ could care less about publicity.

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@Ian Michael Gumby

I can understand all of it perfectly. The jerk thinks he's being clever by suggesting a stupid name for a pub over something we will have fogortten about in a couple of weeks. SZC could have handled things differently but the proposed suggestion is that of an idiot.

SCZ might care less about publicity but SZC will not look a gift horse in the mouth.

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I'm all for...

...giving Big Meeja a kick in the conkers (if you've read my previous comments, you'll know this) but the pub is clearly using Tolkein's inventions and (one assumes) without license. I really do not see what possible defence the landlady can have beyond "We've done it for 20 years, and now you complain?" This is not a fan-based, not-for-profit enterprise.

If I was to open "Bar Jedi" or something; would things be any different?

That all said, a suit in this case seems to be a bit OTT. One would have thought SZC would have politely asked them to license the inventions first.

Or am I missing something?

(For the avoidance of doubt, I do think copyright is too long, but thems the rules for now)

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Re: I'm all for...

They should probably make it more generic, but keep the name because it was named in his honour, shortly after his death a few miles down the road.

Alternatively completely rebrand and let it be known that a memorial had to be torn down because it infringed on a copyright that big business bought up after the death of the person it is a memorial to.

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Re: I'm all for...

Thanks - did not know about the memorial angle, that does slant things slightly.

I guess if they concocted their own likenesses of the characters then they could just jam two fingers up to the lawyers (which is always a nice thing to see).

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Unhappy

Re: I'm all for...

Thing is, its in the UK and its a civil infringement and can be argued that if they have done eff all about it for 20 years then its tough. That being said the way extradition laws are these days they'll be in US by next week :(

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Facepalm

Re: I'm all for...

The Hobbit was published in 1937, (75 years ago), and Tolkien died in 1973 (39 years ago). It is completely, utterly, ridiculous that copyright would still exist on this. Nevertheless, the law, being a proper ass, puts copyright at author's life + 70 years, so technically all copyrights on "The Hobbit" would expire in 2043 (by which time, no doubt, the existing right-holders industry would have lobbied to increase it even further). There's really no reason for copyright to be that long.

I propose that copyright should expire after whichever is the earlier of (first published + 30 years) or (author's death + 15 years)

Using the image of Frodo from the film is definite infringement, though

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Re: I'm all for...

May depend of what the previous right holders knew (or could be reasonably expected to know):

Effect of acquiescence

(1)Where the proprietor of an earlier trade mark or other earlier right has acquiesced for a continuous period of five years in the use of a registered trade mark in the United Kingdom, being aware of that use, there shall cease to be any entitlement on the basis of that earlier trade mark or other right—

(a)to apply for a declaration that the registration of the later trade mark is invalid, or

(b)to oppose the use of the later trade mark in relation to the goods or services in relation to which it has been so used, unless the registration of the later trade mark was applied for in bad faith.

(2)Where subsection (1) applies, the proprietor of the later trade mark is not entitled to oppose the use of the earlier trade mark or, as the case may be, the exploitation of the earlier right, notwithstanding that the earlier trade mark or right may no longer be invoked against his later trade mark.

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Happy

Re: I'm all for...

I started drinking there in 1992 at University. That must have been the first year it was known as the Hobbit, which I wasn't aware of. I spent at least 2 nights a week there through 4 years of Uni and I can honestly say I never once new there were themed cocktails. (It sells decent ale you see. Or at least it used to). Not once have I ever seen that place try to trade of anyones trademark. It trades off selling a decent night out at an affordable price - hence its popularity with students.

It doesn't matter what they change the name to, it will still be know as the Hobbit. There is a pub round the corner that re-branded to the Southwestern Arms at least 20 years ago yet the locals still call it Nellies Nob.

Give them some support. Summer bank holidays are fantastic, if you like cider and the Wurzels :-)

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WTF?

Re: I'm all for...

"It trades off selling a decent night out at an affordable price"

GAH propeller head alert, you don't try and sell warranties for cars on TV do you?

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FAIL

Re: I'm all for...

SZC bought the "non-literary" rights from Tolkien well before he died, and while it looks a poor deal now, he was apparently happy enough. Considering Tolkien's age at the time, I don't think Saul Zaentz could claim to have a clear conscience over the deal.

When the Bakshi animated film came out the Tolkien Society had to spend time and money on pre-emptively registering some very limited trademarks, and a curiousity I recall was that the SZC subsidiary, Tolkien Enterprises, registered trademarks using the spelling "hobbite". There was a wheat variety around at the time called "Maris Hobbit".

I've lost count of the number of houses I have seen which are named "Rivendell" I don't recall seeing any nestled away in a steep-sided mountain valley.

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Coat

Re: I'm all for...

2012 - 1937 = 75 years since publishing, so is the name not in the Public Domain now?

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@Michael Dunn

I believe it's until 70 years after the authors death which was in 1973 so it's not out of copyright until the back end of 2043.

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@Michael Dunn Re: I'm all for...

Copyright in the UK lasts for life+70. I totally agree that this is a ridiculous length of time, but I don't make the rules.

What's the answer? Not sure. Reducing the term is one (but Disney would never agree to it) or some kind of "cultural use" clause? The asset here was a book. So maybe after a certain time (lets say 10 years) society can do what it like with the asset (e.g. brand a pub) but can't reproduce the original asset for another 20 years? I realise that is open to exploitation, but the current situation is so ludicrous that it's a bad joke.

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Boffin

Re: I'm all for...

You do realize that there is a difference between civil and criminal courts, right? That they can't be extradited? I'm not sure if you were trying to be funny, or just don't grok the legal system. Sorry but commentards cross a wide range of intellect.

You are correct that they did have legal options open to them. But they cost money.

Maybe you could find a pro bono lawyer?

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TRT
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Flame

Bad feeling...

why the f**k don't these kinds of people not just look at the history of a place and say "you know, we have to protect our interests, but we'd rather work with you than against you, so you can license what you are currently using for a peppercorn fee until the copyright expires."

Besides, you can't copyright FACT.

Has anyone got any pictures of these guys? As agents of the dark side, you'd think they'd look fairer yet feel fouler.

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Devil

Re: Bad feeling...

Has anyone got any pictures of these guys? As agents of the dark side, you'd think they'd look fairer yet feel fouler.

I would like to imagine they are holed up in some dark, damp cavern muttering "precious, my precious" over and over to themselves.

I suspect though that they are sharp-suited individuals, sat on the nth floor of some award winning dark tower.

They will almost certainly have never actually read the book, just the three-bullet-point summary drawn up by a netherling research assistant.

They will still do the muttering though.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: Bad feeling...

It's trademark not copyright.

Fixed now.

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Re: Bad feeling...

if its a trademark and they registered the trademark AFTER the pub was branded then the pub can tell em to eff off (plus senior rights). The fact that copyright infringement on the pub existed prior is moot and can be disregarded due to lack of movement. The fact the pub is pretty prominent and hasnt taken any attempts to hide its name adds weight to the argument.

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Re: Bad feeling...

The Saul Zaentz Company were behind Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings movie, so they will have had the trademark since the 1970s. If memory serves, they've used it for an animated Hobbit movie as well.

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Thumb Up

Re: Bad feeling...

Besides that, as far as I know an undefended trademark is automatically lost (which is why there are so many trivial trademark cases), so if it's trademark rather than copyright then the pub is in teh clear

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Re: Bad feeling...

"It's trademark not copyright."

Dammit, Jim, I'm a geek not a lawyer... :-)

(When can we have a Star Trek icon, El Reg?)

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Re: Bad feeling...

INAL, but they only have the trademark registered for certain classes - virtually any type of toy, game, food, drink and other product which might exploit the name.

I don't see anything to stop a pub using the name, or indeed anything to stop the pub trade marking the name (I am no expert, but I recently registered a trade mark which was already registered by someone else, just in a totally different business).

If it is actually a copyright issue, are they using images etc from the film? That would be easily fixed without having to changethe name of the pub. I am pretty sure the name "Hobbit" can't be copyrighted - can it?

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Re: Bad feeling...

About the most sensible response so far - SZC could be seen to be protecting their IP, while also acknowledging the fact that the actions of a small village pub are having absolutely fuck all financial effect or negative influence on them, and said pub is not seeking to profit from their IP in any way, but simply applying an enthusiastic theme to the regular business of flogging the medicinal compound.

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Re: Bad feeling...

This may be mentioned further down the 100+ comments thread here, but according to the BBC news website, SCZ have offered to settle for a nominal $100 per annum license fee.

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Re: Bad feeling...

So, if I bought a picture from a film, I wouldn't be able to hang it up in my pub?

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FAIL

Fuck Saul Zentz

I'm pretty sure there's something somewhere that says you can't own shit that predates your own stuff. Only needs to be in UK law, too, with luck.

Typical greedy bastard corporate GreedFail. They just lost ten cinema tickets in the UK cos no way am I taking my family to see Hobbit 1 & 2 where ten minutes ago I definitely was.

There. That was worth the GreedMongering, wasn't it you jackass plutocrat bastards.

Need a Tom & Jerry $$-sign eyes style icon.

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Big Brother

Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

This is the guy who, according to Wikipedia, tried to sue John Fogerty for sounding too much like Creedance Clearwater Revival.

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Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

"The Hobbit" was published in 1937

The pub has been called "The Hobbit" since around 1982.

Now I agree that 85 years is excessive for copyright based on Tolkein's works, but that is the law as it stands AIUI (life+70 years).

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Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

Using images and movie-specific collateral, naughty for sure, yes, but it *sounds* like they're objecting to using the LOTR character names which have defo been in use longer than the movies have existed.

Or are they saying they own the JRR books too?

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Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

Yes, they are. They bought the rights to JRRT's stuff.

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Unhappy

Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

Bollocks. I thought it was the movie rights only.

That's an enormous shame. Galactically.

Fuck em anyway. Johhny foreigner is hassling a British pub and that's just not cricket, ask the ghost of Guy Gibson's dog.

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Happy

Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

That should be the pub's new name!

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Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

I was thinking the same, but I don't know the licensing deal that Newline Cinema has with SZC. Will Newline pay a percentage (in which case the boycott logic works, albeit a drop in the ocean) or have Newline already paid a lump sum?

Nevertheless, a reason that Tolkein's IP is so profitable today is because of the excellent work by Peter Jackson, Alan Lee and the cast and crew of TLOTR. It is unfair to deny them their cut.

The other reason that the franchise is popular is *because* it has been integrated into our culture, as Ian McKellen pointed out by mentioning his 'Gandalf for President' badge. People are keen to watch the movies because they feel a part ownership of the stories.

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Vic
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Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

> The pub has been called "The Hobbit" since around 1982.

Was it 82?

Crap. Now I feel old. I still think of it as "The Portswood Hotel"...

Vic.

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Happy

Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

According to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Denham_Tracts the term "hobbit" predates Tolkien. You cannot copyright folklaw.

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@Gupie Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

One can copyright genes found in nature, so why not folklaw?

I am not saying I agree with it at all!

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Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

"You cannot copyright folklaw." Maybe not, but you can certainly trademark ancient words - witness Apple, for example.

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