I think what the pub and public has managed to do here no mean feat...
It's doubles all round at The Hobbit boozer in Southampton at the news that the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) has called off the lawyers of Mordor, who were attempting to take down the Portswood pub for trademark infringement. SZC wrote to The Hobbit pointing out it had "exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising …
Now that the pub has managed to draw so much attention to itself, it can only be a matter of time before the local council inspector appears insisting that he check the premises. Inadequate provision of a secondary fire escape route from the lounge area (cunningly named "Lothlorien") is sure to be a matter that will need to be addressed urgently. Elfen safety is of paramount nowadays.
No, actually, we know that's *not* what they did.
If you refer, for instance, to the Beeb article on the topic at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-hampshire-17350103, for example, you'll see the following statement:
"A letter from SZC asked it to remove all references to the characters."
If they wanted a nominal licence fee on an annual basis, they could've easily added "alternatively if you wish to licence the usage of these characters for your premises, you can do so at a fee of $100 per annum, as per the enclosed contract".
IMO, this is a case where they thought they could quietly strong-arm someone into either very expensive renovations or a heavily one-sided legal battle. The unexpected publicity has caused them to reconsider, since they know that they look like money-grabbing parasites. (I'm not saying they *are*, necessarily, since apparently they've held the rights since way back when the animated feature film came out, but I'm betting that comparatively few people will have bothered to do some research into other news stories, the background of the company concerned, or the areas for which they've registered the relevant trademarks...and to those folks who don't do that extra research, it looks more clear-cut.)
So, for £65-ish they get to keep the images of Frodo, etc, too? What a most excellent result.
Of course the real tipping point was me saying I'd not take the family to see the 2 Hobbit(tm)(r)(p) movies, losing them 10 cinema tickets. Still not gonna go, though, MUHAHAHAH!!!!
"The law says that unless you protect your trademark it becomes diluted and you can lose it." whined SZC as though trying to extract actual pity and sympathy out of the situation, like as if they are the victims
"all it ever wanted was a nominal $100 fee" - perhaps if you'd said that up front, all this adverse publicity might have been avoided, but hey whatwould I know
Actually, and somewhat bizarrely, that's exactly what trademark law *does* say, at least here in the States. If a trademark owner becomes aware of trademark infringement and fails to take action against the infringer, the trademark owner can lose the trademark.
It's a bit bonkers, really. A little like saying if I become aware that my roommate is stealing my silverware, and I don't boot him out for it, I can never own silverware again.
"The law (established by the legal profession) says that you must engage lawyers under a closed shop to persue any percieved infringement in this field no matter how trivial or ill-founded, or lawyers at a later date reserve the right to jeopardize and confiscate your trademark."
Being a cast-iron cynic, could it be that the request for a nominal license fee was the first contact and someone in the discussions said 'how about we whip this up a bit'...promo for the pub, promo for the film...everyone gets their names in the paper and we all shake hands amicably at the end.
Good script for a film there with the ruthless PR bod, the poor humble pub landlord/lady (single-parent family of course for added pathos). Throw in a romance between the PR bod's misunderstood rebel of a child and a local at the pub.
Probably been done before but when did that stop Hollywood.
Looks like pretty any other pub, but they did use LOTR movies imagery. All in all a storm in a tea-cup, so to speak.
So I am off. Where to, you might ask. Well... I'm off to open my own Hobbit themed restaurant/bar/pub complete with: Midgets dressed as hobbits and LOTR movie memorabilia hanging from every wall. Interior and exterior designed in old fashioned Hobbit-ville style, complete with rounded doors and low ceilings. LOTR style wands, staffs and weaponry available for the interested. And I only have to pay 100 dollar a year to be able to do this? Where do I sign!?
Seems they don't want to get bad press before the opening of the Hobbit, in my opinion...
"They come in pints?" (beer-icon reference)
Your reminder: publicly available from papers filed during litigation a number of years ago, for convenience here follows a summary of the situation you reference. (Citations to documents have been removed, but the information was largely taken from public sources. You likely won't find any public monetary figures published anywhere, but rest assured Zaentz did pay for certain rights, and was required by its licensor to actively go after infringers and enforce the Tolkien estate's rights):
Sales of The Lord of the Rings continued to rise steadily until 1965, when it was learned that an American publisher, Ace Books, was planning to issue an unauthorized paperback edition without paying royalties. “Because of the confused state of American copyright at that time, the publisher doubtless thought that he could do this with impunity; and he also realized that such an edition would probably sell widely, especially among American students, who were already showing an interest in the book.”
The unauthorized publication of The Lord of the Rings in June of 1965 by Ace in the U.S. presented Tolkien with major concerns, so that rather than rushing to lawyers right away, he was distracted from his successor works for six to nine months bothering with the situation. Tolkien’s attitude in the face of what he regarded as immoral appropriation can perhaps best be summed up by a comment in a letter to his son Christopher: “Wars are always lost, and The War always goes on, and it is no good growing faint.”
Tolkien began to include a note in his replies to American fan letters telling them that the Ace book was not authorized and asking them to discourage sales of it. “This soon had a remarkable effect. American readers not only began to refuse to buy the Ace edition but demanded, often in forcible terms, that booksellers remove it from their shelves.”
Tolkien’s authorized American publisher, Houghton Mifflin, planned to issue The Lord of the Ring in paperback in collaboration with Ballantine Books, but in order to register for copyright they would have to make changes, which was explained to Tolkien. Each authorized book, including the paperback edition of The Hobbit published by Ballantine since August 1965, and The Lord of the Rings published since October 1965, have carried Tolkien’s message: “This paperback edition and no other has been published with my consent and cooperation. Those who approve of courtesy (at least) to living authors will purchase it and no other.” Tolkien’s request provoked an immediate personal response in his readers, such as Vladimir Padunov, who wrote to Tolkien in March 1970, apologizing for having previously purchased the Ace edition without having provided any compensation to Tolkien.
Word of the war being waged on the moral front was disseminated by diverse means, such as an April 1968 newsletter from the Florida state English teacher’s association. The controversy and subsequent consumer boycott of the pirated edition had been so widespread that it was noted even by The New York Times in January 1967.
The Ace paperback edition quickly lost the market to the authorized “official” edition. As a result of unprecedented consumer pressure on booksellers, and the Science Fiction Writers of America applying its influential pressure on Ace, sales of the Ace version began to fall sharply for the rest of 1965. Ace finally offered to pay Tolkien a royalty for every copy that they had sold, and promised to not reprint after existing stock was exhausted. [ ... ]
Professor Tolkien granted U.K. publisher George Allen & Unwin the exclusive license to publish The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. He also established trusts to exercise the author’s reserved rights, and in July 1969, during Tolkien’s lifetime, the trusts together with George Allen & Unwin, granted United Artists (UA) exclusive world-wide rights to use “the valuable name, character, symbol, design, likeness and visual representation of all characters, places, objects and events” of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit in motion pictures, sound recordings, television production, merchandising and non-printed matter. As a result, UA obtained the sole and exclusive right to use the name, character, symbol, design, likeness and visual representation of all characters, places, objects and events referred to in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. UA also obtained all non-printed matter merchandising rights to use, and to license third parties to use, the names and marks of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.
Tolkien Enterprises is a wholly-owned subsidiary of The Saul Zaentz Company, whose motion picture and merchandising rights for Tolkien’s fanciful Middle-Earth characters were acquired from UA. As part of the purchase from UA after Tolkien’s death, Zaentz had also acquired the right to license others to use the Tolkien characters.
Not only did all of Prof. Tolkien’s four children consent to the assignment from UA to Zaentz, they and publisher George Allen & Unwin specifically authorized exclusive use of the name “Tolkien Enterprises” in connection with the merchandising and licensing program.
The current rights owners for the Railway Series (Gullane (Thomas) Limited) are similarly just as grasping. Any pres railway with enough cash to licence Thomas to run kiddies' trains also have to jump through all sorts of hoops based on presentation and the like. So much so that several railways have devised their own child-friendly railway characters in very much a similar vein to the Railway Series, but not touching on Rev Awdry's creation. Rev W Awdry must be spinning in his grave at the way his books and characters have been lawyered-out in this way.
Yes, if you take images from a recent high profile film and use them to theme your pub, you are going to have to pay fro the privilege. One business using another business's copyright material for commercial gain, of course they have to pay.
The pub is a business, not an amateur fan site.
A British pub would have a hard time passing off as a movie or other theatrical performance. It's similar to, in use, I'll see you down by the butchers.
You don''t drink there (at the pub) because of the pub's name but for the convivial company of the customers and the barkeep, as well as the choice of brews.
The greedy American should remember that any mention of his movie, or characters, is free promotion for him.
The pub name probably isn't the problem here (although they would probably do a bit of sabre rattling anyway), it is more likely things like the cocktails. They have trademarked the name Hobbit for every imaginable film spin off, including beverages. If they let this pub sell cocktails with trademarked names, they would lose the trademark (for the broad class which includes beverages and many other things).
You don't go to a pub because of its name, but some people like themed pubs, so there is a potential commercial benefit from using the copyrighted imagery. If you want to argue that the pub provides free promotion for the film - fine, that is something good to throw into the negotiations *when you ask permission*. It isn't a valid excuse to not ask.
I don't really understand most peoples' attitude to this case, so I will probably get downvoted. But I don't see how this pub have won some kind of moral victory. Please tell me where my logic is wrong here.
SVC own the rights (trademarks of the names use in relation to beverages amongst other things). They have to defend those rights or risk losing them.
The pub knew someone owned some kind of rights on those names, or ought to have (obvious to anybody who thinks about it for 10 seconds) and it is not exactly difficult to find out who owns the trademark and what it covers these days - its searchable on the IPO site.
If the pub had asked permission before doing it, SVC would have been perfectly within their rights to just say no. And they might well have said no, simply because it is too expensive to deal with a little pub so they can't be arsed. Or because they thought such a deal might cheapen the brand. Would anyone have got on their high horse about that? I doubt it.
So this pub infringe SVC's rights, either because they didn't have the common sense to find out what the legal situation is, or they just hoped they would never get caught out. When SVC do find out, why on earth shouldn't they adopt the same policy they would have done if the pub had asked?
I don't think they originally only wanted the £100 fee - they wanted to restore the situation to what it would have been if the pub had asked permission (ie no LOTR theme). Nothing evil about that, it is their entitlement as rights holders. Having backed down in the face of a somewhat unjustified public backlash, you can't blame them for trying to put a positive spin on it.
Isn't their a real ale called Hobbit? Assuming they paid for the rights, I wonder what they think about Hobbit themed cocktails?
IP is not a strange, alien concept. It's been around in some form or another for nigh-on two centuries now. You can't just claim simple ignorance: if you're that thick, you probably shouldn't be running a pub at all.
The pub was in the wrong here. They took a massive gamble and damned near lost. That they managed to "win" this case with the aid of an equally ignorant internet crowd is just blind luck; legally, they didn't have a leg to stand on.
The law is very clear here: it is a legal obligation to protect a company's intellectual properties. The company lawyers don't get to pick and choose: if a violation comes to their attention, their default response is to sue for damages.
It's really not that hard to ask permission to use someone else's property. In my day, we called it basic manners.
"legal obligation to protect a company's intellectual properties". yes but that legal obligation can mean many things and can be, for example, asking a little notice to be placed in the pub acknowledging copyrights/trademarks. By no means does it mean they MUST send the legal nuclear option.
You're talking about trademark rights. Trademarks are limited in scope. A company that has rights to make movies about hobbits doesn't necessarily have rights to sell meals or serve beverages themed on them.
As far as I can see, everyone involved in this story so far seems to have made the automatic assumption that just because one company controls the right to make and market movies, it also controls the right to sell drinks. That's a serious abuse of trademark - the scope is limited by design, it's not a loophole.
In this case, the pub laid themselves open by using imagery taken from the movies. That was stupid. And thanks to this "compromise", now they've effectively (by precedent) given that rapacious rhymes-with-James-Blunt the right to control "the hobbit" name as applied to pubs.
And the laughter of Mordor will be our only reward...
If the pub hadn't been known as the Hobbit since before the first LOTR trilogy appeared in cinemas. Chasing after them twelve years ago as part of a crackdown on unlicensed use of their rights would have been harsh. Doing it now just makes them look incompetent AND shows how negligent they've been.
Saul Zaentz ? Ah, that explains it. The same company that in 1985 sued 1970's rocker John Fogerty for the song The Old Man Down The Road on the album Centerfield saying in was plagiarizing Down On The Corner that John had written for his group Creedence Clearwater Revival back in 1969.. Saul lost the case btw.
But in a compromise got John/the record company to change the title of one of the songs on that 1985 album from Zanz Kant Danz to Vanz Kant Danz. It was about a pig that steals your money. You do the math.
Zanz Kant Danz still available on vinyl copies. Allegedly.
Sing along kids!
"Zanz can't dance, but he'll steal your money,
Watch him or he'll rob you blind. "
Everywhere the IOC conns it's way in to having another country host it's money raising programs their lawyers seek out and try to bully anyone using the name Olympic in their trade name to change it,
They met their match in Toronto, during the Montreal Olympics, when one 'offender' went to court and said his name was Olympic and that he had run his eatery on Eglinton Avenue West for years. The court ruled that because of all the facts he could continue to use his trade name.
They tried it on with Olympic Airlines and lost and by the time the successor airline was formed the IOC had reconsidered it's ways.
They also chase people with five rings or five balls in logos.
I'm on the fence tbh. Been going to the pub for years, it's more of an alt-music/rock venue than a student pub, but does happen to be surrounded by student pubs so gets its fair share of students through the door.
They have been taking the piss with copyright infringements for years, I've even commented to staff in the past and they simply didn't feel they needed to comply with any laws, so the lawyers were in the right to demand they stop. It would not have been a huge undertaking to rebrand, a new sign on the door and take down the posters etc inside. Done. And I don't feel it would have changed the pub, since no-one does go there because they like the books/films, they go because it's one of the best pubs in the south.
But: I'm totally thrilled that my favourite pub won't be changing, since I fear change.
"You can blame the interwebs for this whole sorry, and completely unnecessary affair. Zaentz explained: "If it wasn’t for the internet we probably wouldn’t have found out about this pub. "
No, we can blame YOU for being an overzealous money grabber, it's a small time backstreet pub trying to make a living. They clearly weren't intent on ripping off the name or showing it in a bad way. It's a themed pub, nothing more! where did common sense come in?
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