New Line to ‘Age of the Hobbits’ studio: ‘Hands off our trademarks’

It’s safe to assume that lots of Florida film fans are eagerly anticipating the December release of Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit.” Jackson also directed the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, which became one of the most critically acclaimed and commercially successful film franchises in the modern era.

Now, it seems like a much smaller studio might be trying to piggyback on that success.

New Line Cinema recently sued a company called The Asylum, which is planning to release a direct-to-video movie called “Age of the Hobbits” a few days before New Line releases “The Hobbit.”

New Line’s argument is that “hobbit” is a trademarked term that was invented by J.R.R. Tolkein for his novels, which New Line’s films are adaptations of.

In response, The Asylum alleges that “hobbit” has become a generic term, so using “hobbit” in the title is nominative fair use (i.e. a use of a trademark-protected term that is legally permitted because it doesn’t substantially infringe on the trademark holder’s rights and advantages.)

The Asylum has never argued that “Age of the Hobbits” is wildly original, so it’s safe to assume that it hopes people will either be interested in “Age of the Hobbits” after seeing “The Hobbit” or else will get confused and will rent “Age of the Hobbits” thinking that they’re getting “The Hobbit.”

Do you have any thoughts on this? If you were in a hurry, would you think “Age of the Hobbits” was “The Hobbit”? Is The Asylum exercising creativity and freedom with “Age of the Hobbits,” or is it being slimy?

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, ” ‘Hobbit’ Lawyers Threaten ‘Age of the Hobbits’ Movie,” Matthew Belloni, Oct. 17, 2012