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. identicon
    Cowardly Anon, 16 Mar 2012 @ 1:35pm

    ...we like to get the company to acknowledge they are using our trademarks, stop selling infringing articles...

    This is what I hate most about copyright and trademarks. SZC did not created the the content in question here. They just managed to get the rights to something popular. What did this company do to create the content? Nothing.

    As for the trademark claim, would a moron in a hurry really think this pub was set up by SZC or is apart of the LotR movie empire? I think not.

    This pub has been open and operating long before SZC had the rights. They built up their own brand outside long before the movies were out. Did they play on the movies some? Yes. Dos that hurt SZC? No.

    Frankly, I think the nominal fee should be $0 and an apology letter.

    Also, I'd like to travel there and have a drink now b/c it looks like a cool pub :)

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