Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen pay to save The Hobbit pub from trademark trolls


45 Responses to “Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen pay to save The Hobbit pub from trademark trolls”

  1. CryoAnon says:

    And this is why these two gentlemen are awesome. They got some class.

  2. Isn’t there a “laches” defense when somebody has been using a name for a long time, where they can continue the use even if it was technically infringing, because the trademark owner never objected earlier?

    • mat catastrophe says:

       You’re thinking about a time when copyright law made sense.

    • NelC says:

      Trademark and copyright are, generally, two different things. You have to defend your trademark or lose exclusive rights to it. Copyright you can sell, rent, or give away without effecting other uses of it. (As I understand it, IANAL, etc.)

  3. mat catastrophe says:

    I certainly hope Mr. Fry is as generous with the lawsuit currently pending against my shop, “Mr. Sound of a Lighter Being Dropped on a Counter’s Coffee Counter and Law School Emporium”.

    • ShawShaw says:

      Now wait a moment. I thought that was spelled Mr. NIPPL-E. That’s a HYPHEN there before the E. Very important, you know.

  4. SpaceBeers says:

    I hope this gets sorted. I’d quite like to see the film and boycotting it in defense of a pub I’ve never been to doesn’t sit well with me.

  5. Susan Carley Oliver says:

    I’m surprised the pub has gotten a pass from the Tolkien estate!

    Personally, I’d rather see these two wonderful gentlemen pay for legal representation on pub’s behalf; paying the license fee just tells the film company that trolling is a productive business plan.

  6. pthree says:

    It was nice of them to pay it for the pub, but at the same time they should never have had to pay for the licence in the first place. I hope the Tolkein estate is happy that they’ve made a few more dollars desecrating the corpse of J.R.R.

    • The problem is with the trademark holder, not the Tolkien estate.  You ought to read up on the history of the LoTR and Hobbit licensing; a nightmare.

    • Antinous / Moderator says:

      I hope the Tolkein estate is happy

      The pub’s been doing business for 20 years without the Tolkien estate getting involved.  It’s the lidless eye of Hollywood that’s caused the problem.

  7. LennStar says:

    Sauron would like the joke.

  8. niktemadur says:

    “Unnecessary Pettiness”.  Bingo, Mr McKellen.
    But taking a step further, these petty companies with their petty lawyers, a misguided version of game theory, zero-sum game, seem to see no context but their own, and will only twist the wrist when it’s about bad PR.

    “But we have the exclusive right to use this word!  The law is on our side here, why don’t people understand?”  Sure, there’s a signed piece of paper somewhere, that tilts the law in your favor.  Please be a jerk about it.

    And still the idiots in this industry wonder why people were angry about SOPAPIPA and whatnot.

    • niktemadur says:

      Further thoughts on the matter, now that I mentioned game theory.

      Schizophrenic mathematician John Nash had an experiment which he called “Fuck You, Jack”, based on the expectation that, when given a chance, people would always be nasty and petty with each other, but they weren’t.

      Every single day we are given evidence that corporations meet the “Fuck You, Jack” expectations of Mr Nash.  While the individuals within the corporation remain nice and civil with each other and others, in daily life.  What the company does “Is not me.  It’s just, you know, business”.

      And they will always try to further rig the game in their favor.

      • Andrew Singleton says:

        As Corporations are Persons would that mean that there is a predisposition to Sociopathic Tendencies by these Persons?

        Can we mandate, as a result, some form of treatment to mitigate these tendencies?

      • DeargDoom says:

        Schizophrenic mathematician John Nash had an experiment which he called “Fuck You, Jack”, based on the expectation that, when given a chance, people would always be nasty and petty with each other, but they weren’t.

        By any chance, has this sentence been influenced by Adam Curtis’ remarkably unfair representation of Nash?

  9. angusm says:

    With all due respect – and they are due a great deal of respect – to Sir Ian and Mr Fry, I don’t think you should pay copyright trolls: it just encourages them.

    As I recall, in the book, the hobbit overcame the trolls; sad that it doesn’t seem to work like that in real life.

  10. Christopher says:

    And here I thought Warner Brothers was being petty when they threatened the Marx Brothers with legal action for making “A Night In Casablanca”.

    Although in that case Groucho responded by saying that, first of all, he didn’t know that the Warners had exclusive rights to the entire city of Casablanca, and furthermore, if they wanted to argue about it, the Marxes had been brothers longer than the Warners.

    That, to my mind, is the ideal way to deal with copyright trolls: baffle them with strange and unassailable logic.

  11. I want to pay for Mr Fry’s and Sir McKellen’s first drinks.

  12. Josh Vogt says:

    You might be interested to know that the Saul Zaentz Company–the same company that initially took action against The Hobbit pub–is also trying to trademark Tolkien terms like “Shire.” Have a report on it here:

    • Andrew Singleton says:

      Nevermind Shire is a term in of itself. As well try trademarking Wizard, or Dwarf…

      Where does this madness end?

      • lightgeist says:

         well first of all the colours white and grey will obviously belong to them for the rest of eternity and beyond. then anything representing an eye will get problematic too. finally, anything “evil” will also have to come up with a new word to call itself. maybe anti-happy?

      • Ipo says:

         Dwarf or dwarve?

  13. EggyToast says:

    I’m not entirely sure these lawyers are copyright trolls. It says in the article that the pub serves beverages and food named from the book, uses images from the film in its decorations and such, and even has Elijah Wood as Frodo on its member card.

    Not sure that’s all that different from an “unlicensed LOTR-themed pub,” to be honest.

  14. BlackPanda says:

    It’s an excellent music venue as well, be that reggae, metal or psytrance. :P

  15. Category says:

    That pub used to be my local when I lived in Southampton. I drank there, played a few gigs there, fell in love with a barmaid there.. I’m glad to hear these fine folks are saving it. It just wouldn’t be the same without the lotr paraphernalia and cocktails. Trust me, nothing beats a pint of Gollum :-D

  16. Xof says:

    I am given to understand that Zanz can’t dance. Can anyone confirm or deny this allegation?

  17. EH says:

     “unnecessary pettiness” and Fry said it was “self-defeating bullying”.

    Both are historically proven sources of profit.

  18. Maureen says:

    There’s also a Hobbit pub in Darmstadt, Germany:

    • Sparg says:

      I remember finding a bar/wing joint in Shreveport, Louisiana back in the 80s called Bilbo Baggins.  I bet they couldn’t get away with that today thanks to the net surfing legal beagles.

  19. James says:

    The whole thing stinks, though hats off to them for defending the pub.

    If a major classical piece of literature passes several ideas, or “intellectual” bits, such as nouns or adjectives over into everyday language, and other users of that language decide to not appropriate, but use those (more or less) common words in non-derogatory ways, then FFS what is their problem??

    FWIW this isn’t the only Hobbit pub, but I probably ought to shut up now….

    • Donald Petersen says:

      There used to be a bookstore on L.A.’s Westside called A Change of Hobbit.  That was the store where Harlan Ellison sat in the storefront window and wrote stories on a couple occasions.  I guess it wasn’t Saul Zaentz who put them out of business, since
      The Other Change of Hobbit 
      has been open in Berkeley since 1977.

  20. JhmL says:

    Bad publicity. It exists, Jackson. 

  21. Camp Freddie says:

    I think this is defending the wrong people. As the update states, this isn’t an old village pub being sued by a global megacorp for having the wrong name.
    They’ve shamelessly ripped off the movie stills for promotional material. Even the sign outside the pub is a picture of the movie cast.
    As the update says, the licensing company is being pretty generous by offereing them a license, rather than suing them to hell and back for all manner of trademark and copyright violations.
    Let them pay or let them stop ripping off the movie. If they were just a pub called the hobbit (of which I’m sure there are several), they’d never have been ‘threatened’.

    It does remind me of a local pizza place that was called “Belushi’s” until the estate of a Mr. John Belushi sent them an angry letter. It’s no called “Capone’s”, presumably because the Al Capone’s surviving relatives are less likely to sue (though I think the owner should be wary of people with baseball bats).

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