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Tolkien Estate Sues Warner Over Lord of the Rings Games

The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien sued Time Warner Inc.’s Warner Bros. Entertainment unit, alleging it doesn’t have the right to license gambling games with “Lord of the Rings” characters and story elements.

“Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of defendants’ rights, but this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien’s devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien’s legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works,” the estate said in a complaint filed yesterday in federal court in Los Angeles.

Under the merchandising agreement between the estate and Warner Bros., the movie studio and its subsidiaries have only the right to sell and license tangible objects, according to the complaint. These rights don’t give Warner Bros. permission to license online slot machine games and casino slot machines based on the late author’s books, the estate said.

The estate, which also says it retains the rights to any downloadable-only video games based on the books, accuses Warner Bros. of copyright infringement and breach of contract and asks for at least $80 million in damages.

Warner Bros. spokesman Paul McGuire had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.

Warner Bros.’ New Line Cinema and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Inc. will release “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey” on Dec. 14. It is the first of three planned movies based on Tolkien’s “Hobbit.” The movie trilogy based on “Lord of the Rings” generated $6 billion in global revenue, according to the estate’s complaint.

The case is Fourth Age Ltd. v. Warner Bros., 12-9912, U.S. District Court, Central District of California (Los Angeles.)

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