Hobbit pub row: Hollywood producer makes offer

The Hobbit pub, Bevois Valley The Hobbit has been trading for more than two decades

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A Hollywood film company has offered to "amicably resolve" a dispute with a Southampton pub over its name and decor.

The Hobbit pub had been accused of copyright infringement by lawyers representing the Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) in California.

Producer Paul Zaentz said he was open to licensing the pub to use its JRR Tolkien brands.

Actors Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellen had criticised the company's action.

SZC owns the worldwide rights to several brands associated with author JRR Tolkien, including The Hobbit and The Lord of The Rings.

Raise a pint

The Lord of The Rings films and the soon to be released adaptation of The Hobbit, made by New Line Cinema, have been licensed from SZC.

Mr Zaentz told the BBC that trademark law dictated they had to act against infringements of their brands.

"Regardless of the size of the company, if we didn't go after these infringements, then other people would say 'if they can use them without authorisation, why can't we?'

Start Quote

It's clearly not a place to ill-treat hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards”

End Quote Sir Ian McKellen

"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."

The pub in Bevois Valley, 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.

'Understand fans'

A letter from SZC had asked the pub 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".

Sir Ian McKellen, Sir Ian McKellen, played Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings films

Sir Ian McKellen, who plays Gandalf in the Lord Of The Rings films, described the film company's actions as "unnecessary pettiness".

"I haven't been there [The Hobbit pub] but it's clearly not a place to ill-treat hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards, in any way. So what's the problem?"

Stephen Fry, who is in New Zealand working on the forthcoming film of the Hobbit, posted on Twitter on Tuesday describing it as "self-defeating bullying."

A Facebook campaign set up by the pub's users has more than 45,000 supporters.

Landlady Stella Mary Roberts said she had been overwhelmed by support for the pub.

Punch Taverns, which owns the freehold to the building, said: "We are aware of the situation and are currently consulting with our legal advisers."

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