Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Tolkien's Estate Challenges Warner Brothers' Countersuit

Hollywood SignAs I have previously discussed, Warner Bros. filed a countersuit against the Estate of J.R.R. Tokien alleging that the estate's lawsuit that Warner Bros. had overstepped its rights in creating online slot games to advertise "The Hobbit" damaged the studio. The amended countersuit alleged that the estate's repudiation of Warner Bros.'s contractual rights to advertise using online slot games damaged the studio causing them "to miss out on millions of dollars of licensing opportunities." Now, the estate has asked a judge intervene and dismiss the countersuit against the estate. The estate argues that countersuit is an attempt to make an inappropriate claim for malicious prosecution into a illegitimate one. 

Here, the issue is on what the term repudiation means within this context. The attorney of Warner Bros. claims that the studio and Mr. Zaentz are the "successors-in-interest," therefore, they are entitled to exploit "The Hobbit" based upon an agreement that was signed in 1969. Mr. Petrocelli, their attorney, argues that it has been there understanding for the past 16 years that they owned the rights to online video games and that the estate has repudiated its right. The attorney for Tokien alleges that the estate has not repudiated the rights of Warners Bros., but that this suit has emerged from their enforcement of the original contract. Furthermore, she alleges that Warner Bros. is this suit is actually a deficient claim for malicious prosecution. The estate argues that the estate has not failed to perform his obligations and this suit actually seeks to challenge the scope of their contractual obligations.

See Eriq Gardner, Tolkien Estate Challenges Warner Bros.' 'Patently Absurd' 'Hobbit' Countersuit, The Hollywood Reporter, Mar. 29, 2013.

Special thanks to Brian Cohan (Attorney at Law, Law Offices of Brian J. Cohan, P.C.) for bringing this article to my attention. 


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