In December 2012 the first part of the feature film “The Hobbit” will be released. The prequel to the book The Lord of the Rings will undoubtedly be a great success.
Since the movies is being released this year, the license and merchandising lawyers are working overtime: a popular pub and music venue in Southampton (UK) called The Hobbit has been threatened with legal action by the lawyers of the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) in California, who owns the worldwide rights to several brands associated with author J.R.R. Tolkien, including The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.
The pub, which is quite popular amongst students, has traded with the name for over 20 years and features characters from Tolkien’s stories on its signs. Furthmore the pub serves cocktails named “Frodo” and “Gandalf” and the face of Lord of the Rings film star Elijah Wood on its loyalty card. Now the establishment is summoned to remove all references to the characters.
Landlady Ms. Roberts stated: “We were absolutely stunned. It was completely unexpected, we never intended to infringe anyone’s copyright. Are we doing any harm? I don’t think so. We’re bringing people to the books and the stories who haven’t heard of J.R.R. Tolkien. We don’t have the financial resources to fight it – I can’t fight Hollywood.”
Rebranding the pub would “cost thousands”, according to Roberts. Student and frequent visitor Heather Cartwright is using social media and set up a “Save the Hobbit” Facebook page which has more than 3,000 likes.
Although it may be a difficult case for Roberts and her pub, social media can be a strong instrument. A big Hollywood company fighting a small pub could give a lot of negative press, which could be bad for the movie.
We are curious how this case will end. To be continued.