back to article Lawyers of Mordor menace Hobbit boozer

Brit thesp Sir Ian McKellen has joined the campaign to protect Southampton boozer The Hobbit from the forces of darkness - Californian attack lawyers who claim the pub has infringed their client's trademark. The BBC explains that the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) has dispatched a missive to the Portswood hostelry pointing out it …


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  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Release the hounds

    If I buy some rights to manufacture car horns in the UK, can I then try and get Hooters shut down across the US?


    1. Armando 123

      Re: Release the hounds

      No, because OBVIOUSLY Hooters is about owls. [eye roll]

      But if you do get the rights to the term 'wanker', then you can get all lawyers and politicians to pay you money.

    2. Field Marshal Von Krakenfart

      Re: Release the hounds

      I hope SZC take this to court and win....

      ...because that will open the way for "The Ivy Bush"[1] Public house to sue SZC for unauthorised use of the pub's name in LOTR, say 1/2% of all income from the books and film, seems fair to me.

      Are SZC also saying they own the rights to Elijah Wood's face as well? That will come as a bit of a shock to Elijah Wood.

      Anyway didn't Tolkien's publishers screw up and forget to register the copyright on the Hobbit/LOTR at some stage?

      [1] 181 Hagley Road, Edgbaston, Birmingham, B16 8UQ [2], benn there sine the 1880's and was Tolkien's local for a while.

      [2] Not to be confused with the Ivy Bush on Bywater Road in the Shire.

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Release the hounds

      Unfortunately the lawyers have to chase down any and every Trademark infringements.

      Its the law.

      Having said that, there were other things that it could do. It could license them the rights for a nominal fee.

      Lawyers have to do their job, they just don't have to be dicks about it.

  2. Piro Silver badge

    I've been drinking here before

    Not as a student mind you, but with friends, several times.

    When the students are there it is extremely busy and the bogs are always a mess, but it does sell great LotR themed cocktails, different characters for different coloured ones, in a pint glass.

    A quick way to get plastered, I can tell you. Just have to be careful outside after consuming the aforementioned cocktails, or you'll fall two metres onto concrete and hit your head, like me - but what's exciting without a little danger?

  3. Purlieu


    Funny how SZC didn't get touchy about this until the film was due out. Twats.

    1. TRT Silver badge

      Re: Funny

      Well, it has us lot Tolkein about it. Sorry.

  4. jai

    You SHALL NOT SUE!!!!!!

  5. Uncle Slacky Silver badge

    Why not change it to...

    ..."The Boggit" (unless National Lampoon's lawyers object)

    1. Lee Dowling Silver badge

      Re: Why not change it to...

      Personally, I'd change it to:

      "The pub with no name because <COMPANY NAME HERE IN 20-FOOT-HIGH NEON LETTERS> threatened to sue us after 20 years of doing business under our old name which rhymed with 'Mob It'"

      Paying for the sign will be cheaper than paying for the lawsuit, and the photos of it will be in every paper by lunchtime. And, it'll be a talking point if they don't back down and you DO keep it as the name. I'd also silently encourage ALL the regulars to only ever refer to it as The Hobbit too.

      And I'd send an invitation to the CEO's of that company once a week, too, for my "unhappy hour" where everyone who worked for them would be charged 10 times the normal price.

      It probably won't do much more than any other technique would, but it would make your point quite clearly and increase your Facebook campaigns hits dramatically.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Lee Dowling

        >Personally, I'd change it to

        What a bloody stupid idea. What would that achieve other than to advertise that SZC have been successful in protecting their clients interests and thereby gaining them more business.

        You plebs might butt heads like a budgie with a new bell and congratulate each other on how your showing up the bad guys but all you'll get are sore heads and thanks from SZC for the free publicity.

        1. Ian Michael Gumby

          Re: @Lee Dowling

          What don't you undestand?

          SCZ owns the rights.

          They have to fight all infringements in order to protect those rights.

          Could the bar have fought and won? Maybe, but they would have paid a fortune in legal fees and would still have to change some of their marketing materials. It's cheaper to change the theme of the bar.

          Could SCZ have licensed the right for a nominal fee? An undisclosed amount? Maybe. But lawyers are trained to be A$$holes.

          SCZ could care less about publicity.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            @Ian Michael Gumby

            I can understand all of it perfectly. The jerk thinks he's being clever by suggesting a stupid name for a pub over something we will have fogortten about in a couple of weeks. SZC could have handled things differently but the proposed suggestion is that of an idiot.

            SCZ might care less about publicity but SZC will not look a gift horse in the mouth.

    2. Ian Michael Gumby

      Re: Why not change it to...

      Change it to Fobbit == term used to describe someone who lives within the confines of a Forward Operations Base. :-)

  6. The BigYin

    I'm all for... Big Meeja a kick in the conkers (if you've read my previous comments, you'll know this) but the pub is clearly using Tolkein's inventions and (one assumes) without license. I really do not see what possible defence the landlady can have beyond "We've done it for 20 years, and now you complain?" This is not a fan-based, not-for-profit enterprise.

    If I was to open "Bar Jedi" or something; would things be any different?

    That all said, a suit in this case seems to be a bit OTT. One would have thought SZC would have politely asked them to license the inventions first.

    Or am I missing something?

    (For the avoidance of doubt, I do think copyright is too long, but thems the rules for now)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: I'm all for...

      They should probably make it more generic, but keep the name because it was named in his honour, shortly after his death a few miles down the road.

      Alternatively completely rebrand and let it be known that a memorial had to be torn down because it infringed on a copyright that big business bought up after the death of the person it is a memorial to.

      1. The BigYin

        Re: I'm all for...

        Thanks - did not know about the memorial angle, that does slant things slightly.

        I guess if they concocted their own likenesses of the characters then they could just jam two fingers up to the lawyers (which is always a nice thing to see).

      2. Dave Bell

        Re: I'm all for...

        SZC bought the "non-literary" rights from Tolkien well before he died, and while it looks a poor deal now, he was apparently happy enough. Considering Tolkien's age at the time, I don't think Saul Zaentz could claim to have a clear conscience over the deal.

        When the Bakshi animated film came out the Tolkien Society had to spend time and money on pre-emptively registering some very limited trademarks, and a curiousity I recall was that the SZC subsidiary, Tolkien Enterprises, registered trademarks using the spelling "hobbite". There was a wheat variety around at the time called "Maris Hobbit".

        I've lost count of the number of houses I have seen which are named "Rivendell" I don't recall seeing any nestled away in a steep-sided mountain valley.

    2. Danny 14

      Re: I'm all for...

      Thing is, its in the UK and its a civil infringement and can be argued that if they have done eff all about it for 20 years then its tough. That being said the way extradition laws are these days they'll be in US by next week :(

      1. Whitter

        Re: I'm all for...

        May depend of what the previous right holders knew (or could be reasonably expected to know):

        Effect of acquiescence

        (1)Where the proprietor of an earlier trade mark or other earlier right has acquiesced for a continuous period of five years in the use of a registered trade mark in the United Kingdom, being aware of that use, there shall cease to be any entitlement on the basis of that earlier trade mark or other right—

        (a)to apply for a declaration that the registration of the later trade mark is invalid, or

        (b)to oppose the use of the later trade mark in relation to the goods or services in relation to which it has been so used, unless the registration of the later trade mark was applied for in bad faith.

        (2)Where subsection (1) applies, the proprietor of the later trade mark is not entitled to oppose the use of the earlier trade mark or, as the case may be, the exploitation of the earlier right, notwithstanding that the earlier trade mark or right may no longer be invoked against his later trade mark.

      2. Ian Michael Gumby

        Re: I'm all for...

        You do realize that there is a difference between civil and criminal courts, right? That they can't be extradited? I'm not sure if you were trying to be funny, or just don't grok the legal system. Sorry but commentards cross a wide range of intellect.

        You are correct that they did have legal options open to them. But they cost money.

        Maybe you could find a pro bono lawyer?

    3. James Micallef Silver badge

      Re: I'm all for...

      The Hobbit was published in 1937, (75 years ago), and Tolkien died in 1973 (39 years ago). It is completely, utterly, ridiculous that copyright would still exist on this. Nevertheless, the law, being a proper ass, puts copyright at author's life + 70 years, so technically all copyrights on "The Hobbit" would expire in 2043 (by which time, no doubt, the existing right-holders industry would have lobbied to increase it even further). There's really no reason for copyright to be that long.

      I propose that copyright should expire after whichever is the earlier of (first published + 30 years) or (author's death + 15 years)

      Using the image of Frodo from the film is definite infringement, though

    4. It wasnt me

      Re: I'm all for...

      I started drinking there in 1992 at University. That must have been the first year it was known as the Hobbit, which I wasn't aware of. I spent at least 2 nights a week there through 4 years of Uni and I can honestly say I never once new there were themed cocktails. (It sells decent ale you see. Or at least it used to). Not once have I ever seen that place try to trade of anyones trademark. It trades off selling a decent night out at an affordable price - hence its popularity with students.

      It doesn't matter what they change the name to, it will still be know as the Hobbit. There is a pub round the corner that re-branded to the Southwestern Arms at least 20 years ago yet the locals still call it Nellies Nob.

      Give them some support. Summer bank holidays are fantastic, if you like cider and the Wurzels :-)

      1. Reading Your E-mail

        Re: I'm all for...

        "It trades off selling a decent night out at an affordable price"

        GAH propeller head alert, you don't try and sell warranties for cars on TV do you?

    5. Michael Dunn

      Re: I'm all for...

      2012 - 1937 = 75 years since publishing, so is the name not in the Public Domain now?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        @Michael Dunn

        I believe it's until 70 years after the authors death which was in 1973 so it's not out of copyright until the back end of 2043.

      2. The BigYin

        @Michael Dunn Re: I'm all for...

        Copyright in the UK lasts for life+70. I totally agree that this is a ridiculous length of time, but I don't make the rules.

        What's the answer? Not sure. Reducing the term is one (but Disney would never agree to it) or some kind of "cultural use" clause? The asset here was a book. So maybe after a certain time (lets say 10 years) society can do what it like with the asset (e.g. brand a pub) but can't reproduce the original asset for another 20 years? I realise that is open to exploitation, but the current situation is so ludicrous that it's a bad joke.

  7. TRT Silver badge

    Bad feeling...

    why the f**k don't these kinds of people not just look at the history of a place and say "you know, we have to protect our interests, but we'd rather work with you than against you, so you can license what you are currently using for a peppercorn fee until the copyright expires."

    Besides, you can't copyright FACT.

    Has anyone got any pictures of these guys? As agents of the dark side, you'd think they'd look fairer yet feel fouler.

    1. Blofeld's Cat

      Re: Bad feeling...

      Has anyone got any pictures of these guys? As agents of the dark side, you'd think they'd look fairer yet feel fouler.

      I would like to imagine they are holed up in some dark, damp cavern muttering "precious, my precious" over and over to themselves.

      I suspect though that they are sharp-suited individuals, sat on the nth floor of some award winning dark tower.

      They will almost certainly have never actually read the book, just the three-bullet-point summary drawn up by a netherling research assistant.

      They will still do the muttering though.

    2. Andrew Orlowski (Written by Reg staff)

      Re: Bad feeling...

      It's trademark not copyright.

      Fixed now.

      1. Danny 14

        Re: Bad feeling...

        if its a trademark and they registered the trademark AFTER the pub was branded then the pub can tell em to eff off (plus senior rights). The fact that copyright infringement on the pub existed prior is moot and can be disregarded due to lack of movement. The fact the pub is pretty prominent and hasnt taken any attempts to hide its name adds weight to the argument.

        1. Jedit Silver badge

          Re: Bad feeling...

          The Saul Zaentz Company were behind Bakshi's animated Lord of the Rings movie, so they will have had the trademark since the 1970s. If memory serves, they've used it for an animated Hobbit movie as well.

        2. James Micallef Silver badge
          Thumb Up

          Re: Bad feeling...

          Besides that, as far as I know an undefended trademark is automatically lost (which is why there are so many trivial trademark cases), so if it's trademark rather than copyright then the pub is in teh clear

          1. Just Thinking

            Re: Bad feeling...

            INAL, but they only have the trademark registered for certain classes - virtually any type of toy, game, food, drink and other product which might exploit the name.

            I don't see anything to stop a pub using the name, or indeed anything to stop the pub trade marking the name (I am no expert, but I recently registered a trade mark which was already registered by someone else, just in a totally different business).

            If it is actually a copyright issue, are they using images etc from the film? That would be easily fixed without having to changethe name of the pub. I am pretty sure the name "Hobbit" can't be copyrighted - can it?

            1. J.G.Harston Silver badge

              Re: Bad feeling...

              So, if I bought a picture from a film, I wouldn't be able to hang it up in my pub?

      2. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Bad feeling...

        "It's trademark not copyright."

        Dammit, Jim, I'm a geek not a lawyer... :-)

        (When can we have a Star Trek icon, El Reg?)

    3. fLaMePrOoF
      Thumb Up

      Re: Bad feeling...

      About the most sensible response so far - SZC could be seen to be protecting their IP, while also acknowledging the fact that the actions of a small village pub are having absolutely fuck all financial effect or negative influence on them, and said pub is not seeking to profit from their IP in any way, but simply applying an enthusiastic theme to the regular business of flogging the medicinal compound.

    4. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Bad feeling...

      This may be mentioned further down the 100+ comments thread here, but according to the BBC news website, SCZ have offered to settle for a nominal $100 per annum license fee.

  8. g e

    Fuck Saul Zentz

    I'm pretty sure there's something somewhere that says you can't own shit that predates your own stuff. Only needs to be in UK law, too, with luck.

    Typical greedy bastard corporate GreedFail. They just lost ten cinema tickets in the UK cos no way am I taking my family to see Hobbit 1 & 2 where ten minutes ago I definitely was.

    There. That was worth the GreedMongering, wasn't it you jackass plutocrat bastards.

    Need a Tom & Jerry $$-sign eyes style icon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Big Brother

      Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

      This is the guy who, according to Wikipedia, tried to sue John Fogerty for sounding too much like Creedance Clearwater Revival.

    2. The BigYin

      Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

      "The Hobbit" was published in 1937

      The pub has been called "The Hobbit" since around 1982.

      Now I agree that 85 years is excessive for copyright based on Tolkein's works, but that is the law as it stands AIUI (life+70 years).

      1. Vic

        Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

        > The pub has been called "The Hobbit" since around 1982.

        Was it 82?

        Crap. Now I feel old. I still think of it as "The Portswood Hotel"...


    3. g e

      Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

      Using images and movie-specific collateral, naughty for sure, yes, but it *sounds* like they're objecting to using the LOTR character names which have defo been in use longer than the movies have existed.

      Or are they saying they own the JRR books too?

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

        Yes, they are. They bought the rights to JRRT's stuff.

        1. g e

          Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

          Bollocks. I thought it was the movie rights only.

          That's an enormous shame. Galactically.

          Fuck em anyway. Johhny foreigner is hassling a British pub and that's just not cricket, ask the ghost of Guy Gibson's dog.

          1. xyz Silver badge

            Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

            That should be the pub's new name!

    4. Dave 126 Silver badge

      Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

      I was thinking the same, but I don't know the licensing deal that Newline Cinema has with SZC. Will Newline pay a percentage (in which case the boycott logic works, albeit a drop in the ocean) or have Newline already paid a lump sum?

      Nevertheless, a reason that Tolkein's IP is so profitable today is because of the excellent work by Peter Jackson, Alan Lee and the cast and crew of TLOTR. It is unfair to deny them their cut.

      The other reason that the franchise is popular is *because* it has been integrated into our culture, as Ian McKellen pointed out by mentioning his 'Gandalf for President' badge. People are keen to watch the movies because they feel a part ownership of the stories.

    5. Gupie

      Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

      According to the term "hobbit" predates Tolkien. You cannot copyright folklaw.

      1. The BigYin

        @Gupie Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

        One can copyright genes found in nature, so why not folklaw?

        I am not saying I agree with it at all!

      2. tapanit

        Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

        "You cannot copyright folklaw." Maybe not, but you can certainly trademark ancient words - witness Apple, for example.

        1. Gupie

          Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

          Yes but this does not prevent say someone opening a pub called "The Apple". You could I believe even form a company named Apple as long as it is in a market the cannot be confused with any existing company called Apple. This is why Jobs and co could call their computer company Apple when there already was an Apple record company.

      3. Kubla Cant

        Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

        I don't think you can copyright folklore, either.

    6. fLaMePrOoF

      Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

      I'm with you - now instead of taking my family to see the movie at my local flea-pit, I'm going to ILLEGALLY DOWLOAD IT - there - not even posted anonymously either!

      (I'll still buy the DVD though ;o)

      1. John Sturdy

        Re: Fuck Saul Zentz

        I would have gone to see the movie if it weren't for this, and probably bought the DVD new too; but I'll wait until second-hand DVDs are available, and get one of those. Legal AFAIK (or will there be a shrink-wrap EULA on the DVDs to say they can't be resold?) and still giving SZ no income from me.

        (Likewise, I completed my James Bond DVD collection without any money going to Sony by buying them second-hand --- if it weren't for the rootkit incident I probably would have bought them new.)

  9. Richard Wharram

    To be fair

    Using images from LotR is taking the piss a little. A simple polite request to tone it down a bit and use the names but not the images would have sufficed in my book. They'd have been better hand-drawing their own versions of the characters from the books.

    Oh, and Lemmiwinks.

    There's also been a Hobbit pub just outside Halifax for donkey's years. I know cos I was barred for stealing a potato.

    1. Bassey

      Re: To be fair

      My thoughts exactly. I was all set to join the "down with lawyers" brigade until I saw pictures of the pub. Sure, they might have been around since before the films but the "Traditional pub sign" is an image from the film poster! I think I'm also correct in saying that, once copyright owners have been notified of an infringement, they are obliged to enforce their rights within a certain timeframe. If they don't then that is interpreted as them waving their rights and then others can start infringing with a reasonable defence that the copyright owners are no longer interested.

      I'd be interested to know (probably impossible now) whether they would have left this pub alone if it hadn't started taking the piss my using images from the films.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Waving

        If you have waived your rights, you might very well wave goodbye to them.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      For a birrova laff

      Type "hobbit" into google maps and see the long list of companies names hobbit worldwide, all marked on a map for your convenience.

      Seems to be a vast number in and around Moscow.

  10. Michael H.F. Wilkinson Silver badge
    Thumb Down

    Are they also suing scientific journals?

    The word "Hobbit" is used to describe small, smart hominids found on the island of Flores in Indonesia in the scientific literature. See e.g. this pdf. Do they want to sue Nature, or Elsevier?

    Thought not.

    1. Sir Cosmo Bonsor

      Re: Are they also suing scientific journals?

      Read the article: they're objecting to a lot more than just the pub's name.

    2. tapanit

      Re: Are they also suing scientific journals?

      The mere name "Hobbit" probably isn't covered by copyright, but it is trademarked.

      I doubt they have (or indeed could have) trademark on hominid species... unlike copyright, trademarks are domain-specific (so that, e.g., Apple could be two separate trademarks, Apple Computers and Apple Records), but they may well have registered the trademark for drinks and such. Copyright enters the picture in where images from the film have been used (which Nature &c presumably didn't use).

  11. deviAnt Ostrich

    Last time I went there was about 15 years ago. Was a good pub then tho. I struggle to see how a pub that has been trading for 20 years can be infringing or damaging the rights of a company that owns film rights for the book the pubs name is based on (and a few other things)... Surely the Tolkien foundation if anyone should be more aggrieved (and they've not said much).

    It's not just a coincidence the timing of this action with the release of the film due in the next year or so...

  12. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Why a film studio

    and not the Tolkien estate? Seems weird that an Foreign entity can assert rights here.

    1. The BigYin

      Re: Why a film studio

      SZC bought the rights.

      1. g e

        Re: Why a film studio

        No statute of limitations esp. as they're American?

        The rightful owners of the (C) have had 25 years to object, irrespective of who those holders have been. If no-one's defend the mark in the last twenty+ years they should be told to do one.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Why a film studio

      Because they are using images of Eljiah Wood as a hobbit?

    3. Dazed and Confused

      Re: Why a film studio

      >and not the Tolkien estate?

      Can you imaging the great JRRT's reaction to someone trying to shut down a pub!

  13. Dave 126 Silver badge

    Green Dragon?

    Tolkien was a user of pubs. He dropped enough hints in TLOTR to this effect, even if one doesn't know about the Eagle and Child in Oxford.

    Heck, at the end of the Return Of The King (book, not film), Frodo and Sam return to the Shire to discover it has been ransacked for the sake of industry and profit.


    Good Luck to the pub and its landlady. Things aren't easy in the licensed trade, and it would be nice to see her win (though I suspect any win will be in the 'court of public opinion' rather than a court of law).

    What is the point of a hobbit if not to be in a 'David versus Goliath' story?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Thumb Up

      Re: Green Dragon?

      Yeah, that would be a good twist - if the foul spawn lawyers get their way, rename the pub "The Green Dragon" or "The Prancing Pony."

      1. TRT Silver badge

        Re: Green Dragon?

        So long as they serve butter beer and Bree.

  14. dotdavid

    "McKellen, whose roles outside the cinema include that of leaseholder of historic London pub The Grapes, promises to visit The Hobbit in person "once filming is over in July"."

    One does not simply walk into Southampton.

    1. Helena Handcart
      Thumb Up


      That is all.

    2. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge


      from the land of the white tower some 25 miles away

      Its a legal shake down

      It will end up with the pub being told to remove the images from the film, while paying a nominal sum in damages, while retaining the name "The Hobbit" and having various themed drinks.

      The pub will be happy, the evil media company will be happy and the lawyers will be ever so happy at £300/hr for 3 yrs work.

      'B' Ark anyone? or is that copyrighted too?

      1. Vic

        Re: Especially

        > Its a legal shake down

        I suspect it's more likely to be an attempt to garner publicity.

        With the imminent release of The Hobbit films, the assorted merchandising rights might become really very valuable. This could well be a signal that the owner of those rights is going to take no prisoners if he thinks they are being infringed.

        If I'm right, the battle with the pub is purely about what the press says, not what the pub is. So there will be an apology, and the rights will be licenced for an undisclosed sum, with the details of the deal under NDA. The pub will actually end up shelling out fifty quid, but it will *appear* that they've been taken to the cleaners and forced to buckle.


  15. alain williams Silver badge

    Obvious solution

    1) The pub is not really doing SZC any harm.

    2) SZC need to protect their property else risk losing control of it.

    The obvious solution is for the pub to pay SZC a nominal fee to continue to use the name. £100 would seem about right. Everyone can then get on with their lives.

  16. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Fry is on the bandwagon also!/stephenfry/status/179677979574673408

    so how many of the cast have to boycott for this to get fixed?

  17. Mage Silver badge

    In the 1960s

    There was a Hobbit Restaurant in Belfast. I think it was still there in the 1980s. Not really been there since 1983 so no idea if it's still there. I was never in it but I bet they served good 2nd and 3rd Breakfasts though.

    Anything a major part of culture should be available under FRAND, like patents incorporated in Standards. Apart from Apple, and occasionally Microsoft and Oracle that works. It's not like these people are a National Franchise. IMO the "loyalty card" is a step too far without talking to the Film company first. Anyone think £200 a year would be reasonable and no photos / images directly from the films or book illustrations?

    1. The BigYin

      Re: In the 1960s

      Whilst I agree completely with the sentiment, this is not how the world works. Companies want to privatise our culture so they can profit from it in perpetuity. I could start a MAFIAA rant...but there'd be little point (mostly preaching to the choir).

  18. Jim 59

    The Hobbit

    It would seem reasonable and fair to remove Wood's image from the loyalty card - that image is derived from the films after all - and otherwise leave the pub unchanged.

    Unfortunately the legal profession seems to be about "how to make maximum money", and little else. It is certainly of no benefit to the Tolkien estate to rename the pub, nor is it in the public interest, nor will it favourably affect the copyright holder's fortunes in any forseeable way. It will simply keep lawyer's busy for several months at $300 per hour, talking about legalistic trivia which they themselves have enacted specifically to fill time. A socially useless closed circuit.

    1. Jedit Silver badge

      "It would seem reasonable and fair to remove Wood's image from the loyalty card"

      ... or they could ask Wood for permission to use it. He retains rights over who gets to use his image and how. Worst case, he could stick on a shirt, a pair of braces and a wig and send them a photo of himself looking remarkably like Frodo, along with a note granting explicit permission to use it for their loyalty card.

  19. Haku

    Why don't SZC offer to buy the pub instead?

    Everyone's just getting bad publicity out of this fiasco, the pub is infringing on the copyrighted images from the LoTR films (just see their website) and SZC is getting flak for apparently 'coming down on the little people'.

    If they were to come to some amicable arrangement, through some sort of licensing or part/full ownership in the pub then it would be win-win all round.

    Just a thought.

  20. Mad Mike

    Shot in the foot

    This is a real shot in the foot. What promotes a film and its merchandise better than having some free advertising and that's exactly what the pubs/restuarants etc.etc. are doing. Unless the filmakers want to now branch out into the licensed trade, what difference does it make to them? They either gain nothing by enforcing the copyright or gain a (relatively) small amount of money. In return, they get loads of bad publicity making them look like money grabbing wankers again. Result, net loss, as the film just gets pirated more alongside everything else. Alternatively, they leave well alone. Result, no immediate gain, but everyone who sees/hears of it is reminded of the films and quite a lot probably go and see them.

    As to the name Hobbit. There is evidence that it was around in the 19th centuary, long before Tolkien supposedly 'created' it. Also, Hobbits have appeared in several other non-Tolkien works over the years and none (to my knowledge) have been sued for copyright. The whole notion of being able to copyright a single word is stupid anyway.

  21. This post has been deleted by its author

    1. rh587 Silver badge

      Unfortunately the new sign, loyalty cards and revamped interior/murals that they had done a couple of years after the LOTR films rather rule out any sort of "coincidental" similarity. They should have left the murals up to the artist's interpretation and used more a more "traditional" aesthetic rather than trying to pay homage to the films.

  22. Lallabalalla

    It's not just the pub

    They're also threatening a cafe in Southampton and a company letting Hobbit-style holiday homes, bacause they are round, it seems!

    Will this madness never end?

  23. J.G.Harston Silver badge

    So, it's Time Gentlemen Please for the Middle Earth Tavern in Whitby, I presume?

  24. CD001

    we never intended to infringe anyone's copyright

    "we never intended to infringe anyone's copyright"

    ... by using copyrighted/trademarked imagery from the films? Really?

    I wonder if this logic would work if I get booked for speeding - "sorry officer, I never meant to break the speed limit by driving faster than it".

  25. Spoonsinger

    Just drop the H, so it's...

    "The 'obbit.". Job's a good-un.

    1. This post has been deleted by its author

  26. dont care what ever

    i take it that the landlady and customers are looking forward to be extradited any day now .

  27. djwayne

    Just remove the movie references and keep the name as the link shows the word was in use long before the books.

  28. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Is it any more or less galling that this media story is purely one more droplet from the slow and steady Hobbit PR sluice. No-one at SZC thinks legal action against a small practically-broke obscure British pub is going to gain them anything but a spot of publicity - all of which accrues against the overriding thirst for "public awareness" for their upcoming payday when the movies are released. There's nothing to protect by suing the pub, no money to gain, just a small drop towards the hope that the hundreds of millions (real money!) that got invested in the movies pays out their slice at maximum return.

    When there's real money at stake who has time to worry about the actual pub owners livelihoods.

  29. Fastolph Boffin of Needlehole

    Prior Art! Prior Art!

    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

  30. Scott 53

    Not just Southampton

    I've stayed here a few times - nice place Are they going to be next? Maybe they were hoping nobody would mention them - sorry!

  31. TheManCalledStan

    No objections!

    I'd say in a letter that, "The Tolkein Estate has not objected in 20 years to the use of the name."

    As such, the public house has been making fair use of the name.

  32. Ben Bawden

    2 sides

    If the pub was called the Hobbit, had a couple of LOTR named drinks, I don't think this would be an issue.

    But the pub is making money by using images from the films. I can see why the copyright holders are unhappy about that.

    Having said that, issuing blunt legal threats seems counterproductive.

  33. Giles Jones Gold badge

    Just an example of the whole IP and rights thing gone mad. All that is left to do is for the Hobbit and Lord of the Rings to be sold to Disney for it to become Disney's The Hobbit.

  34. Chris Holt

    You can tell the people who havent been there

    Its hard to say they are 'making money from the film', it opened twenty years ago!

    Its a great student pub but I would very much doubt that the fact its LotR branded is actually drawing people in. I've cenrtainly never gone there because of the particularly strong and not very hobbitish cocktails, its cheap beer and open late, and nicer than Clowns on a friday

    And its been the hoobit for a very long time. Its not like it opened on the back of the LotR films.

    Also if you rename it, we will still all call it the Hobbit anyway

    1. Vic

      Re: You can tell the people who havent been there

      > Its hard to say they are 'making money from the film'

      Hmmm. There seems to be a difference of opinion on this thread.

      I can only see one way out of the conundrum: a fact-finding mission.

      Shall we all head down there for a pint?


  35. Mike Moyle

    Name change

    "The Habbit"

    The advertising fairly writes itself: "Get in The Habbit", "Make (Whatever) Night a Habbit", etc.

    ...Or just pronounce it with a broad "a", as in "To-MAH-to"

  36. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Can we...

    ...burn SZC to the ground and sow his.., well whatever you like really, with salt? Oh please! Please!!

  37. Stevie


    Just hang a carving of a rearing horse in place of the pub sign and have done with it.

    They should counter-attack by getting the street on which the pub is situated renamed "Sharky's End". I doubt anyone thought to trademark that as it ain't in the film and lawyers don't read books if my experience of them is anything to go by.

    Defending trademark is all about whether the alleged infringement will "confuse" a potential customer for the alleging party's product. A quick (and ethical) compliance with the cease and desist on the use of images from the movies should sort that out.

    After all, no-one could confuse a student-infested pub with a film. "Two adult tickets for the piss-awash bogs and beer-swilling loud idiots please". See? It doesn't work.

  38. fLaMePrOoF

    I agree with any and all posts above referring to SZC as 'wankers', 'twats', 'cunts' etc.

  39. Tom 13

    Read the complaint carefully.

    It says "certain worldwide rights" not "certain worldwide copyrights." Also, remember this is US law, not UK law and put the blame where it belongs: on stupid requirements in our laws. I expect this is a rare exception where the lawyers are doing only what is required, not trolling. I say this because I expect what is being infringed is NOT copyright, but Trademark. And in the US, if you don't defend Trademark, you lose it, which make extending it to worldwide a really big double-edged sword.

  40. deviAnt Ostrich
    Thumb Up

    I like the current banner on the savethehobbit facebook page! :o) Can't see it helping their cause much - but the sentiment is awesome!

  41. M Gale


    That mean a little hamlet south of Wigan is going to have to change its name from Bamfurlong?

    Just asking.

  42. Crisp

    I'm not sure I understand the infringement here either.

    It's not like people are going to turn up to the pub and confuse it with the movie.

  43. Fred 21

    I cant believe ..

    That this has brought up this level of discussion - have you even looked at their website? Its a blatant LoTR \ The Hobbit rip off. They use Elijah Woods image on loyalty cards, have LoTR drinks and even admit to being a LoTR 'Theme Pub' (which, incidentally, is the first time I've heard of this pub being called that).

    I'm from the area but I have no sympathy for them, you can't make a profit using someone elses work without permission, what's so difficult about that?

    The business I do feel sorry for in this heavy handed approach, is the owner of the "Hungry Hobbit" in Birmingham, they've also been contacted and told to change their name by SCZ. They aren't a theme cafe, the name is just a nod to Tolkien as he grew up in the area - totally different situation to the pub imo.

    1. Richard IV

      Re: I cant believe ..

      For trademarks the law is a case of defend it or lose it, so I'm not surprised at either.

      That being said, it should be more of a case of use it or lose it even if the mind shudders at the thought of the likes of SCZ running a Middle Earth theme pub. They'd find a way of making that of which they complain look positively tasteful.

      Sam will kill them if he finds out...

  44. Jimbo 6

    Best suggestion I've heard...

    ...turn it into a "replacement parts for cookers" themed-pub.

    Call it 'The Hob Bit'.

  45. John Sturdy

    I suspect the aim is not the declared one

    I doubt the idea is really to get the pub to change its name --- it sounds more like a shakedown to me: "Pay us all your money".

    Or alternatively, perhaps SZC are planning to open a chain of plastic middle-earth themed hostelries themselves?

  46. The Mighty Spang

    its a crappy student pub

    with a good food bar attached, and a big outdoor area which is great in the summer even if the view is the corregated steel of the industrial estate next door. as another poster mentioned the fear of tripping down those concrete steps is a huge one though....

    as for the name.. change it. who cares? you think people are going there for the name? somebody here said about great hobbit themed cocktails... wtf its just tramp juice to get students pissed quickly. do you read about them drinking cocktails in the book? think not.

    as for the use of the name.... well could almost be forgiven given the age.but covering your walls and loyalty cards with pictures from the film... seriously who in their right mind would do that in this day and age? deserves all that coming to them from that angle.

    and fry getting involved? simple one fry, quit the film. if you don't you're a damn schill. happy to gain yet more fame from being the stupid person's idea of a clever person ( (c) julie burchill ) yet happy to take the money to appear in the film. which will be shit anyway because its martin 'i cant act for toffees' freeman in the *lead role* *yet again*. Has nothing been learnt from the hitchikers movie?

  47. mhenriday

    Well at least it isn't - to quote a particularly well-spoken poster on another thread -

    «the fucking Chinese» who are (being accused of) ripping off somebody's so-called «IP», now it's (no doubt) hardworking pub owners from England's southern coast. One more example of how absurd all these lawyerly claims to so-called «intellectual property» are - but what I really want to know is - what's in those «Gandalf» cocktails ? Never did trust that old wizard....


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