Tolkien Estate Settles $80M Merchandise Lawsuit with Warner Bros.
The family of "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien has settled an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. relating to the merchandise rights from the film franchises.
The Tolkien estate sold the rights to the films in 1969 along with merchandise rights, but the family, which teamed up with HarperCollins to sue Warner Bros., said the studio overstepped its boundaries by using the franchise's characters for video games, smartphone apps and gambling games.
According to the BBC, the lawsuit was "amicably resolved," one Warner Bros. spokesperson said.
The legal dispute first started in 2012, when the family, lead by Tolkien's daughter Priscilla, sued Warner Bros. for $80 million in damages plus legal costs for copyright infringement. After that, Warner Bros. counter-sued, alleging that the estate had allowed the merchandise rights.
But, in the end, the estate's argument that the rights only allowed Warner Bros. to create "tangible goods" (like T-shirts, figurines, etc.) won.
"The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future," a spokesperson for Warner Bros. told the BBC.
There have been a few big-time licensing cases recently, especially when the party in question is deceased. We reported on the ongoing case of allowing Prince merchandise after the artist's death, and Michael Jackson's estate has been busy, as well.