UK Pub 'The Hobbit' Offered License In Attempt To Stem PR Disaster

from the negotiation-by-threat dept

Well, that was fast. We recently wrote about a UK pub called The Hobbit that was threatened with legal action by the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC), which owns certain trademarks associated with the franchise. Perhaps because of the immediate backlash (which included public condemnation by Stephen Fry and Ian McKellan, both of whom are starring in the upcoming film adaptation of The Hobbit), producer Paul Zaentz told the BBC that he is prepared to offer the pub an inexpensive license:

"When it's an established business, we like to get the company to acknowledge they are using our trademarks, stop selling infringing articles and then we will grant them a licence for a nominal fee - approximately $100 a year."

"We asked to them to contact us and amicably resolve this and are open to any suggestions they have. I'd be glad to raise a pint with them the next time I'm over."

Frankly, it sounds like Zaentz is just trying to smooth over the PR nightmare he was facing. It's hard to amicably resolve a dispute with someone who is already threatening you with legal action. Friendly negotiations come before threats, not after. Why didn't Zaentz just offer them the license in the first place? His description of the process is basically "meet all of our demands, then we'll talk."

All the coverage of this story mentions trademarks and copyrights in passing, without ever being clear about what rights were supposedly violated. Either way, it's entirely possible that SZC does have a valid legal claim here, on at least some of the things the pub was doing—but if they want to pursue those claims, then they have to face the backlash from people who think they are being petty. They can't just make it all okay by offering to have a beer together, while their lawyers still lurk in the wings.

Filed Under: copyright, hobbit, pub, trademark, uk
Companies: saul zaentz company

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  1. icon
    DandonTRJ (profile), 16 Mar 2012 @ 1:16pm

    Some copyright owners still haven't woken up to the fact that the general public now views the issue of copyright enforcement as an issue of equity. They don't care that you have a valid copyright claim if you're using it to extract millions of dollars from an elderly grandmother or six-year-old boy. Similarly, when you've got a pub that's been operating for two decades with no evidence of consumer confusion and a sizable client base endeared to it, just because they may have crossed some minor IP lines does not mean you won't be excoriated in the court of public opinion if you go about enforcing your rights the wrong way. And that'll cost you far more in the long-run than whatever license fees you forfeit by not playing hardball. Maybe this will encourage artists' estates to do a little bit more homework on their targets before they go rent-seeking.

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