The Tolkien estate is suing Warner Bros. and its New Line subsidiary company for $80 million. The reason: video game adaptations of the film versions of The Lord of the Rings.
According to the court filing, the Tolkien estate is not happy with the seemingly exploitative way Tolkien’s works are being treated by Warner Bros. The furore began when it was revealed that online slot machines based on The Lord of the Rings films had been developed. Warner Bros. has plans to develop physical slot machines based on the films as well.
As such the Tolkien estate is suing for a breach of contract. When the The Lord of the Rings IP was licensed to Warner Bros. to make the films, the agreement allowed them to develop film merchandise “such as figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing and the like.” According to the Tolkien estate, Warner Bros. has “with increasing boldness, engaged in a continuing and escalating pattern of usurping rights to which they are not entitled.”
The court documents explain the estate’s displeasure by making specific reference to games based on the film adaptations. The original agreement allowed Warner Bros. to market “tangible” merchandise, but not digital games such as the likes found on Facebook and tablets /cell phones. What this means for games like the recently released LEGO The Lord of the Rings is uncertain. That game was published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment so it’s entirely possible that it would be included in what the Tolkien estate is suing for.
Warner Bros. has also allegedly registered trademarks for “hotels, restaurants, travel agencies, ringtones, online/downloadable games and housing developments” based on The Lord of the Rings films. Needless to say, the Tolkien estate isn’t happy about that either.