‘Hobbit’ update: New Line isn’t backing down in trademark infringement suit

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

Several of our last few posts have been about “The Hobbit,” the film that is set to debut in a few weeks. The movie is causing quite a few entertainment law issues because it is expected to do very well at the box office and many people want to cash in on it, but of course, the estate of “Hobbit” author J.R.R. Tolkien and New Line, the studio that made the movie, want its economic success to be theirs alone.

Not long ago, we told Miami readers about how New Line had sued movie studio Global Asylum over the release of “Age of the Hobbits,” a straight-to-video film that doesn’t have anything to do with Tolkien’s world of Middle Earth, but might cause consumer confusion. Global Asylum is often derisively called a “mockbuster” studio because it has a habit of releasing movies with titles or artwork similar to other successful films.

This week, New Line presented evidence in its trademark infringement suit against Global Asylum showing that as much as 30 percent of consumers might be confused and think that “Age of the Hobbits” is a New Line production affiliated with Tolkien’s work.

The evidence comes from Nielsen Co., the marketing and survey company many businesses use to test market conditions. In the survey, Nielsen showed consumers the real artwork for “Age of the Hobbits” and asked consumers whom they thought made it. About 30 percent of them indicated they thought the film was somehow connected to the New Line films.

Interestingly enough, when Nielsen kept the original artwork but changed the title, only 6 percent of consumers thought it was affiliated with New Line’s films.

We thought this was an interesting update. We will keep an eye on this lawsuit and will continue to update you on any other significant developments.

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “‘The Hobbit’ producers Enlist Nielsen in Legal Fight Against ‘Age of the Hobbits,'” Eriq Gardner, Nov. 27, 2012