Legal battle between Tolkien estate and Warner Bros. ends


JRR Tolkien’s family have “amicably resolved” a $80m legal battle with Warner Bros. over merchandise rights, which began in 2012.

The Tolkien estate sold Warner Bros. the rights to the film adaptations of the Lord of the Rings trilogy in 1969, along with some merchandising rights.  Five years ago, the beloved author’s daughter, Priscilla Tolkien, joined with publisher HarperCollins to attempt to sue the company for $80m for copyright infringement, after claiming they had overstepped these rights.

Warner then countersued, asserting that the estate had made an “about face” in their agreement and that the original agreement had cost them dearly in licensing fees and decreased exposure for The Hobbit films.

The estate argued back, clarifying that the rights had only allowed Warner to produce “tangible” merchandise, rather than digital; Warner had been using the characters in online gambling games and slot machines, which the estate said had caused ‘irreparable harm to Tolkien’s legacy’.

The terms of the agreement have not been publicly shared, but no costs or fees have been awarded by the court, and the computer game Middle Earth: Shadow of War remains on track for release.  A statement released by Warner simply states: “The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future.”

Watch the trailer for the game, set for release October 10th, below:


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