Warner Bros. Can Press Counterclaims in Hobbitt Game Suit

Time Warner Inc. (TWX)’s Warner Bros. Entertainment unit can pursue counterclaims in a lawsuit by author J.R.R. Tolkien’s estate over the right to license “Lord of the Rings” and “Hobbit” online and gambling games.

U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins in Los Angeles today denied a request by the estate and Tolkien heirs to dismiss Warner Bros.’ and producer Saul Zaentz’s counterclaims, saying they are routine contract-based claims and aren’t improper because the estate sued first.

The estate sued last year, alleging that the movie studio and its subsidiaries have the right to sell and license only tangible objects, not downloadable video games. Warner Bros. also doesn’t have permission to license online slot machines and casino slot machines based on the late author’s books, according to the Nov. 19 complaint.

Bonnie Eskenazi, a lawyer for the Tolkien estate, didn’t immediately return a call to her office for comment on the ruling.

The case is Fourth Age Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Digital Distribution Inc., 12-cv-09912, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles.)

To contact the reporter on this story: Edvard Pettersson in the Los Angeles federal courthouse at epettersson@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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