Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog

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

Saturday, November 27, 2021

J.R.R. Tolkien estate to ‘JRR Token’ cryptocurrency: You shall not pass

The JRR Token, which rolled out in August, has just been blocked by the estate of English fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien. 

The "JRR Token" referenced the late fantasy writer as well as the author's iconic fantasy trilogy "The Lord of the Rings." The token was released with the tagline, "The One Token That Rules Them All" on its website. The tagline was in reference to the iconic "One Ring that ruled the other magical 'Rings of Power' in the tale's mythology." 

However, when the Tolkien estate became aware of the new crypto currency token, the response was essentially "you shall not pass" and eventually turned to the World Intellectual Property Organization's arbitration procedure and is arguing that the "token infringed on trademark right's to Tolkien's name."

The "JRR Token" developer responded arguing that the token was actually not referencing the English fantasy author and that the name "just happened to bring J.R.R. Tolkien to mind, then it was parody, and not copyright infringement." 

Despite the Developer's contentions, the WIPO's arbitrator ruled in favor of the Tolkien estate, writing, "the respondent does not specify why the disputed domain name is humorous, funny, or nail-biting, and not just a domain name chosen due to its similarities with the [Tolkien estate's] trademarks to take commercial advantage of its evocation." 

See Nicole Lyn Pesce, J.R.R. Tolkien estate to ‘JRR Token’ cryptocurrency: You shall not pass, Market Watch, November 23, 2021. 

Special thanks to David S. Luber (Florida Probate Attorney) for bringing this article to my attention.


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