Middle Earth long-running IP conflict is ‘amicably settled’

News Article

A long-running dispute involving Warner Brothers and the estate of the author J R R Tolkien has finally ended in an ‘amicable settlement.’

In 2009, following the film release of the Lord of the Rings trilogy, the author’s son Christopher Tolkien took issue with a number of the studio’s creative and commercial decisions.

Three years later, amidst legal action against Warner Bros., Christopher Tolkien publicly slated the commercialisation of the films saying that they had “eviscerated” the books.

Now, according to the film industry magazine, Variety, the latest dispute between the two parties – which had resulted from Warner Bros. allowing wizards, hobbits, elves, and other Middle Earth creatures to feature on slot machines and computer games – has been ‘amicably’ resolved.

A Warner Bros. spokesperson issued a statement, reading: “The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”

The terms of the settlement have not been made public, but no costs or fees have been awarded by a court and neither party is entitled to recover the fees.

Luke Morgan, a Partner and Intellectual Property specialist with Palmers, said: “This case illustrates that unless the terms of a licensing agreement are carefully and accurately drafted, a licensee may opt to use the intellectual property in a way which the owners had perhaps never intended or are uncomfortable with.

“A great deal of confusion and ill feeling could be avoided in such situations by carefully checking that the agreement leaves no room for misinterpretation.

“The son of J R R Tolkien apparently felt that in this instance utilising the books’ characters on games machines was a step too far and took action, which his legal team were ultimately able to resolve without going to court.

“IP law, at its heart, is concerned with legally protecting a creation which rightfully belongs to an individual – to quote the fictional Samwise Gamgee, from the Lord of the Rings, ‘That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”

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