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Lord of the Rings Idle

'The Hobbit' Pub Threatened With Lawsuit 388

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-does-not-do-to-leave-lawyers-out-of-your-calculations dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'The Hobbit,' a small pub in Southampton, England, has been threatened with a lawsuit by lawyers representing the Saul Zaentz Company in California. The pub, which has traded under the name for the last 20 years without incident, now faces closure if it does not change its name. It's yet another example of big business throwing its weight around to get its way. The pub's landlady said simply, 'I can't fight Hollywood.'"
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'The Hobbit' Pub Threatened With Lawsuit

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  • Easy! (Score:5, Funny)

    by Megane (129182) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:12PM (#39346893) Homepage
    Change name to "The Halfling". Problem solved.
    • Re:Easy! (Score:5, Funny)

      by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:28PM (#39347055)
      I was going to suggest 'Fantasy Midget' but I think it would be erotically misleading.
    • Or just drop one of the "b"s...

      From Collins English Dictionary
      hob
      n
      (Myth & Legend / European Myth & Legend) a hobgoblin or elf

    • by Aryden (1872756)
      Wizards of the Coast may sue them then...
    • by stanlyb (1839382)
      "Bilbo Begins"
      • There are three pubs here in Vegas called "Bilbo's", I wonder if the owner should be worried.
        • Re:Easy! (Score:5, Insightful)

          by EdIII (1114411) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:35PM (#39348289)

          Not if his name is Bilbo. I know people that have been named after characters in the book.

          I think where the "problem" lies is that the name of the establishment is the name of the book which might possibly be putting it under trademark law which forces you to "protect it or lose it".

          It's still bullshit of course. Books are over 60-85 years old and the man has been dead since 73'. Copyrights are rather disgusting when abused like this. His children can go out and get their own fucking jobs and write their own fucking novels.

          • My understanding of US trademark law, at least (and I have no idea if the laws applicable here are the same), is that you are not forced to defend the trademark or lose it if it isn't an infringing use of your trademark. Since "The Hobbit" is the name of a book (and now a movie), having a bar named the same thing would not be an infringement, and anyone suing over it wouldn't be "forced to by the law", they'd just be dicks.
          • Re:Easy! (Score:4, Interesting)

            by ShakaUVM (157947) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @01:15AM (#39349011) Homepage Journal

            Doctrine of Laches. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Laches_%28equity%29)

            If this pub has been around for 20 years and they haven't sued them in this time, the pub could assert that the owners have slept on their rights, and that the delay in bringing the suit would cost them a lot of money.

            • Re:Easy! (Score:4, Informative)

              by Fjandr (66656) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @02:14AM (#39349345) Homepage Journal

              Unfortunately, Hollywood has two major advantages:

              1) Lots of money for lawyers.
              2) It's the UK legal system.

              • Re:Easy! (Score:5, Interesting)

                by julesh (229690) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @05:19AM (#39350187)

                Unfortunately, Hollywood has two major advantages:

                1) Lots of money for lawyers.
                2) It's the UK legal system.

                Actually, the UK legal system isn't very friendly to hollywood in this case. They would almost certainly lose if the case came to court (trademarks only work where somebody is likely to think the use of the name implies some kind of actual relationship between the two businesses, which nobody rational would in this case), and that means they would have to pay the Hobbit's legal expenses as well as their own. Because this is a likely outcome, the owners of the Hobbit are likely to be able to find a lawyer who will represent them on a conditional fee arrangement (i.e. they pay nothing, hollywood pays when they win).

                (This is not legal advice.)

    • Pull an H (Score:5, Interesting)

      by goombah99 (560566) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:58PM (#39347983)

      And put up an apostrophe, it will be pronounced the same in cockney.
      the `obbit

  • Do what TSR did and name it the halfling.
  • by bdwoolman (561635) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:16PM (#39346945) Homepage
    The Habit.
  • by netsavior (627338) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:18PM (#39346973)
    They should kickstart fund the signage and associated paperwork.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:19PM (#39346983)

    The "Fuck you Hollywood"

  • by el3mentary (1349033) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:20PM (#39346997)
  • ..."Saul is a putz".

    Everyone will know what it means.

  • by Necroman (61604) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:32PM (#39347115)

    If you look at their website [thehobbitpub.co.uk], you'll see they use likenesses of the characters from the movies in their advertising. If the pub was just using fan artwork or coming up with their own graphical material (while using the names), they may have been left alone. But they are using the faces from the movie in their own advertising and promotional material (posters, loyalty card). That's just asking for trouble.

  • by Lord_of_the_nerf (895604) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:39PM (#39347171)
    ....if nine of them showed up to the pub dressed as Nazgul.
  • Long history (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Walt Dismal (534799) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @09:43PM (#39347219)

    Mr. Saul Zaentz has a long history of being a dick. Zaentz sued Creedence Clearwater's John Fogerty for plagiarizing himself (!) asking $140 million in damages, and lost.

    Zaentz's perception is that he owns the 'brand' Hobbit, although he only owns screen rights.

    • Not correct, Zaentz really owns "Hobbit" US trademark, not only one but in multiple categories (besides the usual stuff also including rare things like "Play houses", "Storage sheds"). Might be a cunning move, if the upcoming film is any good he will command the merchandise revenue. If you own the trademark you own pretty much everything...
  • And then explain that to everyone who asks.

  • by brentrad (1013501) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:01PM (#39347403)
    Of course they can't fight Hollywood, since they've been using stills from the movies in their advertising. Take a look at their website, that's obviously a photograph of Elijah Wood from the LOTR movies on their "One Card To Bind Them All" loyalty card:

    http://www.hobbitpub.co.uk/drink-offers/ [hobbitpub.co.uk]

    They're not fighting Hollywood since they don't have a leg to stand on. If they would have used original artwork instead of copyrighted images from a movie, I'd be on their side.
  • by MrKevvy (85565) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:08PM (#39347463)

    ... Shire Art?

    /ducks

  • Call it "The Other Tolkein's Estate"!

  • by erroneus (253617) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @10:18PM (#39347601) Homepage

    I know... the usual arguments apply but I'm going to reference Wikipedia anyway: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hobbit [wikipedia.org]

    Seems to me that, as is usually the case, art owes itself to art which came before it. A name here, a concept there, whether consciously or not, no one has truly original ideas or thought on their own. There are variations and twists but it's called evolution, not creation.

    This quibbling and fighting in courts represents the utter denial of what it is to be human. We learn from each other. We teach each other. We entertain each other. And to place a restriction, an ownership or a price tag on human habit and human legacy isn't just tragic, it simply denies what and who we are. And we're just about the only animal on the planet that can do what we do. It's not the use of tools. It's not even that we speak a language. It's that we can teach each other things without having to live through the entirety of human development to advance further than picking up a stick to get bugs out of a tree.

    When you put any kind of limit on that, you are in direct opposition to human development. Not that anyone can really do that successfully... well, maybe they can... I once heard about some sort of dark ages which somehow wiped out hundreds or even thousands of years of human development and knowledge so I guess it's possible. But will the next dark ages be caused by the courts and copyright law? Or perhaps it will be because of a war fought defending and imposing copyright law...

  • Vague (Score:5, Insightful)

    by flimflammer (956759) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:23PM (#39348183)

    I felt sorry for this pub until I actually went to the website. The summary would have you believe the big guys are trying to crush the little guys over a little innocent naming. Not so-- Visiting the website will immediately welcome you with faces and figures from the films, trademark and copyright infringement everywhere.

    I don't feel sorry for a pub that is trying to leech from the popularity of the source material and the films. Maybe it didn't start out that way, but that's what it appears to be now.

    • Re:Vague (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Nursie (632944) on Tuesday March 13, 2012 @11:35PM (#39348299)

      It didn't start that way, the pub was there, using that name, long before the movies.

      I agree it's dumb/wrong of them to use film promo stuff on their flyers, however that's not what this suit is about (AFACIT), and the guy suing doesn't own any of that stuff. It is the name.

      I am biased because I used to live near there and drink there, it's a good place, and I think that the name should stay - The Hobbit was released in 1937 and is part of our culture now, it should be free for all to use. OTOH they definitely ought to cut that shit out with the flyers and use of film materials, assuming they don't have permission from whoever does own the copyright on those images, which is a pretty safe assumption to make.

  • by Anachragnome (1008495) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @03:46AM (#39349767)

    AGAIN with the prior art!

    From Wikipedia on "Hobbit":(debate away!)

    "Evidence of earlier use

    The only source known today that makes reference to hobbits in any sort of historical context is the Denham Tracts by Michael Aislabie Denham. More specifically, it appears in the Denham Tracts, edited by James Hardy, (London: Folklore Society, 1895), vol. 2, the second part of a two-volume set compiled from Denham's publications between 1846 and 1859.

    The text contains a long list of sprites and bogies, based on an older list, the Discovery of Witchcraft, dated 1584, with many additions and a few repetitions. The term hobbit is listed in the context of

            boggleboes, bogies, redmen, portunes, grants, hobbits, hobgoblins, brown-men, cowies, dunnies

    In the December 2003 Oxford English Dictionary newsletter, in the "Words of Choice" section, the following appears:

            4. hobbit â" J. R. R. Tolkien modestly claimed not to have coined this word, although the Supplement to the OED credited him with the invention of it in the absence of further evidence. It seems, however, that Tolkien was right to be cautious. It has since turned up in one of those 19th-century folklore journals, in a list of long-forgotten words for fairy-folk or little people. It seems likely that Tolkien, with his interest in folklore, read this and subconsciously registered the name, reviving it many years later in his most famous character. [Editor's note: although revision of the OED's entry for hobbit will of course take this evidence for earlier use into account, it does not yet appear in the online version of the entry.] "

  • by apodyopsis (1048476) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @06:13AM (#39350407)

    Well one of them, I generally prefer the Shooting Star - about 200 yards further down the hill these days (as it has a better pool table). Over twenty years I have been drinking at the Hobbit. Last night a group of my friends all gathered there for a drink in the mistaken belief they could do something about this.

    I don't think anybody is going to argue the film is not infringing copyright, even in the early 90s there were posters of illustrations from the book on the walls. They introduced a range of cocktails based on characters in the books (Gimli, Legolas and so on). When the films were introduced they brought in pictures from the films and hung them on the walls. They make "The Hobbit" T-Shirts. They have a life size statue of Aragorn from the movies in there. So discussions on the "hobbit" being an English word and prior art are irrelevent - they have posters and paintings from the film and book in there.

    The point is that they have been called The Hobbit for a very long time and this lawsuit has popped up only because of the new film coming out. And SZC has probably been trawling the net looking for targets, I think that after the first trilogy films came and went and there was no mention of it there was an assumption things would remain the same for ever - I do remember a conversation at the time about copyright and the name of the pub. Among my friends there is a huge amount of anger about this because The Hobbit has been a bit of an institution in the alternative/student scene in Southampton as long as anybody can remember.

    Having said that - nobody believes that anything they can do will change this and there are probably already re-branding plans on the horizon. The best possible outcome now is that they use the massive publicity to their advantage and choose a similar style of name - I have heard "The Camelot" mentioned as a possible option (and I don't think anybody can claim copyright over the Arthurian legends). Stella - the landlady - is not an idiot, I'm sure she's looking at all options. But from a legal case it's pretty clear where the law stands and there is no fighting that.

  • by Greyfox (87712) on Wednesday March 14, 2012 @11:48AM (#39353323) Homepage Journal
    I seem recall that Carl Sagan got some sand in his vagina after sending a C&D to some scientific team for naming their project the "Sagan." So they renamed it to "Butthole Astronomer". Think he sued them for defamation. I'm guessing he lost. Then he died. So yah I'd name it that, and nail the "Change your name or we'll sue" notice to the wall.

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