Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

Editor: Gerry W. Beyer
Texas Tech Univ. School of Law

Friday, March 15, 2013

Warner Bros Fights Back In Tolkien Breach of Contract Lawsuit

Court FightAs I have previously discussed, the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien brought a copyright infringement case against Warner Bros. alleging that they had overstepped their contractual rights by creating online slot machines and games designed to advertise the new Tolkien movie, "The Hobbit." A counterclaim was filed against Tolkien's estate by rightsholder, Saul Zaentz Co., who alleged that the estate "has breached an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing."

Now, Warner Bros. has struck back at the estate of late-author. The studio hired Daniel Petrocelli and has amended the original counterclaim. The studio claims that the action filed by Tolkien's estate has damaged the studio by causing them "to miss out millions of dollars of licensing opportunities." Therefore, the studio is seeking damages from the estate for the breach of contract. The studio based its claim on the fact that it believes that it is the successor-in-interest based on an United Artist agreement from 1969. It further contends that it and Zaentz has had the right to use online video games for the past 16 years. The studio claims that this dispute over these rights erupted after a "regrant agreement" was executed in 2010. Warners claims that it suffered losses because it was unable to use "The Hobbit" like it was able to use "The Lord of the Rings" in online video games. Tolkien's estate responded to the counterclaim by claiming that it was entirely unfounded and that the studio is only using intimidation tactics designed to scare the estate. 

See Eriq Gardner, Warner Bros. Claims Tolkien Estate Breached 'Hobbit' Contract, The Hollywood Reporter, Mar. 13, 2013.


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