The Hobbit pub ordered to change name for IP infringement

There’s a pub in Southampton which has for the last 20 years been called The Hobbit. The pub is now facing demands to change it’s name due the upcoming film release by the same name. Apparently use of “The Hobbit” is “likely to cause confusion, mistake or deception among prospective purchasers” who may assume the are buying official film merchandise rather than merrily downing a few beers in their local student hangout.

The JRR Tolkien classic novel theme is carried through the pub including Hobbit Pint Cocktails and Hobbit Shots. It appears that Punch Taverns who own the freehold and current landlady Stella Roberts will now have to change the pub’s name and theme unless they can fund a court battle with the wealthy film moguls in the states.

The Pub has a lively Facebook and Twitter following calling for the movie company to back down. Stephen Fry has added his support and a “Save the Hobbit” Facebook page already has over 16,000 likes.

Honestly, @savethehobbit, sometimes I’m ashamed of the business I’m in. What pointless, self-defeating bullying. http://fry.am/yGQDeh
Stephen Fry (who plays the part of the Master of Lake-town in The Hobbit film)

To me this is brand protection gone mad, to the rights owners it’s sound business sense. The film and merchandise rights for The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit were sold by JRR Tolkien in 1969, and are currently owned by Tolkien Enterprises, a company controlled by Saul Zaentz. However it’s only now that the Hobbit film is due out that they’ve decided to clamp down on any business using the name.

There are 11 eBay shops using the name Hobbit and another six Gandalfs – will they be next in line for an enforced name change? Have you ever had to change your business name and what would you do if you were ordered to rebrand by a bunch of lawyers because they’d suddenly decided that your name infringed their rights?