Hobbit pub row: Landlady overwhelmed by support

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

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The landlady of a pub threatened with legal action by a Hollywood film company says she is overwhelmed by the support the pub has had.

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

A Facebook campaign set up by the pub's users has more than 50,000 supporters.

Hollywood film SZC company has offered to "amicably resolve" the dispute over its name and decor.

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

Landlady Stella Mary Roberts, a huge Tolkien fan, said: "I think they've been scared off, I don't think they [SZC] were expecting the reaction on Facebook.

"Once they realised what they were up against, they had to stop and think 'we need to re-address this'.

"We are still waiting to hear back from the solicitors to find out what exactly this licence consists of, we need it in black and white."

Raise a pint

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

It added that any changes following the dispute would be "ultimately the responsibility of the licensee, but we are helping them to come to a resolution".

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

Start Quote

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

End Quote Sir Ian McKellen

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

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.

He said: "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?'

"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 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."

'Understand fans'

The pub in Bevois Valley, which is popular with students, has traded with the name for more than 20 years.

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

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 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, 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".

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