By Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) – The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has settled an $80 million lawsuit against Warner Bros. over the licensing of online games, slot machines and other gambling-related merchandise based on the author’s books “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
The settlement by the Tolkien estate and book publisher HarperCollins with the Time Warner Inc unit, New Line Cinema and Saul Zaentz Co, which hold various marketing rights, was disclosed in a court filing on Friday in Los Angeles.
It also resolves counterclaims by Warner Bros. and Zaentz. Terms were not disclosed.
“The parties are pleased that they have amicably resolved this matter and look forward to working together in the future,” Warner Bros. spokesman Paul McGuire said in a statement on Monday.
Bonnie Eskenazi, a lawyer for Tolkien’s estate and HarperCollins, which is a unit of News Corp, provided a nearly identical statement.
Tolkien’s estate had accused the defendants of violating a 1969 agreement allowing the sale “tangible” merchandise, by associating the books with the “morally-questionable (and decidedly non-literary) world of online and casino gambling.”
It said this “outraged Tolkien’s devoted fan base” and irreparably harmed the legacy of the English author, who died in 1973 at the age of 81.
The copyright lawsuit was filed in November 2012.
Total worldwide grosses exceeded $2.9 billion for each of the big-screen trilogies for “The Lord of the Rings,” released from 2001 to 2003, and “The Hobbit,” released from 2012 to 2014, according to Box Office Mojo. (http://www.boxofficemojo.com/showdowns/chart/?id=vs-lotr.htm)
The case is Fourth Age Ltd et al v Warner Bros. Digital Distribution et al, U.S. District Court, Central District of California, No. 12-09912.
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; editing by Grant McCool)