Tolkien’s Estate Settles $80 Million Lawsuit Against Warner Bros.

LOS ANGELES (CN) – J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate has settled copyright-infringement claims against Warner Bros. over merchandising rights to the author’s most famous works, “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit.”

In November 2012, Tolkien’s estate claimed that Warner Bros. had unlawfully exploited its limited merchandising rights to release downloadable video games as well as gambling slot machines that were sold to casinos all over the world. Warner Bros. released “The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movie trilogies through its subsidiary New Line Cinema.

Tolkien’s estate granted merchandising rights to United Artists back in 1969 as part of a film deal for the fantasy novels but said that Warner Bros. – UA’s distributor – and its subsidiaries had asserted rights to a variety of products not covered by the agreement, including hotel, restaurant and gaming merchandise.

The estate said that the licensing of the “The Lord of the Rings”-themed gambling products had tarnished Tolkien’s legacy.

“Fans have publicly expressed confusion and consternation at seeing ‘The Lord of the Rings’ associated with the morally-questionable (and decidedly non-literary) world of online and casino gambling,” the 26-page lawsuit states.

Seeking $80 million in damages, the estate said that it had attempted to settle its claims over more than two years of discussions that still did not resolve the dispute.

Now close to five years later, the estate filed court papers in the Central District of California on Friday to dismiss the lawsuit.

“The parties have amicably resolved their differences and no longer wish to pursue the claims pled in the complaint,” the court filing states.

Bonnie Eskenazi, an attorney for the Tolkien estate, wrote in an email, “The parties are pleased that they amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”

Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

“The Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” are among the most popular works of fiction in literary history. Tolkien died in 1973 in Bournemouth, England, at the age of 81. The Peter Jackson-directed film series based on the books have grossed billions of dollars worldwide, according to Box Office Mojo.

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