Court Temporarily Bars ‘Hobbit’ Parody Disc Release11 Dec, 2012 By: Erik Gruenwedel
A Los Angeles District Court Dec. 11 issued a temporary restraining order against the direct-to-DVD release, Age of the Hobbits, saying the so-called “mockbuster” sought to benefit from Warner Bros. Pictures’ global marketing efforts for its $200 million movie, The Hobbit: An Unexpected Adventure, which launches in theaters Dec. 14.
Warner, MGM and Saul Zaentz Co. collectively own the movie rights to J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels, “The Hobbit and “The Lord of the Rings.”
Warner Nov. 7 filed a complaint for trademark infringement and false advertising, among other charges, against Global Asylum, a Los Angeles direct-to-DVD producer of films typically parodying major Hollywood titles. On Nov. 21, Warner sought a temporary restraining order barring release of the disc in “any form under the title, Age of Hobbits.
In its motions, Warner cited third-party research that claimed nearly 50% of respondents associated the term “Hobbit” with the trademark holder. Indeed, more than 200 respondents believed Age of the Hobbits originated from Warner. Comparatively, just 6% believed it to be a Warner movie with the title changed to Age of Java Men.
Global Asylum had argued that the term, “Hobbits” referred not to Tolkien’s characters but a “human subspecies living in Indonesia.”
The court didn’t buy it.
“…The use of the term “Hobbit” in the title of Asylum’s film may be confusingly similar to plaintiffs’ use of the trademark in its movie title even though the titles are not identical. This factor too weighs in favor of plaintiffs,” said the court order.
Warner hailed the court ruling, calling Aslyum’s marketing practice a “cynical business model” intended to profit from the work of others.
“Their intent to create confusion in the marketplace on the eve of release of ‘The Hobbit,’ one of the most anticipated films of the year, has met with defeat,” Warner said in a statement.
Earlier this year, Universal Studios filed suit against Global Asylum, alleging its disc release, American Battleship, infringed upon its theatrical release, Battleship. The disc title was changed to American Warships.