Hobbit pub in Southampton threatened with legal action
- 14 March 2012
- From the section Hampshire & Isle of Wight
A popular pub and music venue called The Hobbit has been threatened with legal action by US movie lawyers.
The Southampton pub has been accused of copyright infringement by lawyers representing the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) in California.
The company owns the worldwide rights to several brands associated with author JRR Tolkien, including The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.
Landlady Stella Mary Roberts said: "I can't fight Hollywood."
The pub in Portswood, which is popular with students, has traded with the name for more than 20 years.
It features characters from Tolkien's stories on its signs, has "Frodo" and "Gandalf" cocktails on the menu, and the face of Lord of the Rings film star Elijah Wood on its loyalty card.
A letter from SZC asked it to remove all references to the characters.
The company asserts it has "exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of JRR Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit".
The Lord of The Rings films and the forthcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, made by New Line Cinema, have been licensed from SZC.
Landlady Ms Roberts said: "We were absolutely stunned. It was completely unexpected, we never intended to infringe anyone's copyright.
"Are we doing any harm? I don't think so. We're bringing people to the books and the stories who haven't heard of JRR Tolkien.
"We don't have the financial resources to fight it - I can't fight Hollywood."
She said that changing the name and rebranding the pub would "cost thousands".
Student Heather Cartwright, who set up a "Save the Hobbit" Facebook page which has more than 3,000 likes, said: "I was completely shocked by it. It's great to see so many people showing support.
"How long do we need to protect works for? Do we protect the works of Mozart and Shakespeare?" she added.
Punch Taverns, which owns the freehold to the building, said: "We are aware of the situation and are currently consulting with our legal advisors."