Trademark dispute erupts between ‘The Hobbit’ and ‘Age of the Hobbits’

By Pankaj Ladhar of Manos • Alwine P.L.

If there were a movie at Redbox called “Age of the Hobbits,” how many people here in Miami would think it had something to do with Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit,” which is due to be released this holiday season?

Probably quite a few, because the word “hobbit” calls to mind J.R.R. Tolkein’s “Lord of the Rings” novels. Peter Jackson’s “The Hobbit” is based on those books; “Age of the Hobbits” is not.

That’s why New Line Cinema recently sued The Asylum over its “Age of the Hobbits” film, which is due to be released direct-to-video a few days before “The Hobbit” is released in December.

New Line claims that “hobbit” is a trademarked phrase and refers only to characters in Tolkein’s novels. The Asylum claims otherwise; pointing to how a hominid species discovered in 2003 was referred to as a “hobbit” before it received a proper scientific name.

Some elements of “The Age of Hobbits” do seem to suggest it is a knockoff, but that in and of itself is not illegal. In 1993, a film production company won the legal right to make an imitation of “Aladdin,” and ever since then, it’s been harder for studios to prevent the making and marketing of copycat films.

It will be interesting to see how this develops. The Asylum was also sued this summer when it tried to release a film called “American Battleships” at nearly the same time as Universal’s “Battleship” and in that case, it changed the name of the film to “American Warships.”

Source: The Hollywood Reporter, “‘Hobbit’ Lawyers Threatens ‘Age of the Hobbits’ Movie (Exclusive)” Matthew Belloni, Oct. 17, 2012