U.S. Court Protects Middle Earth. Hobbits, Not Inmates, Take Over Asylum.

A United States District Court for the Central District of California has granted plaintiffs Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM and Saul Zaentz – the motion picture studios and producer behind the forthcoming film "The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey" – a temporary restraining order against Global Asylum (also known as The Asylum of Burbank), blocking the release of "Age of the Hobbits." The plaintiffs previously filed suit against Global Asylum (Warner Brothers Entertainment, et al. v. The Global Asylum, Inc.; CV 12 - 9547 PSG (CWx)), seeking an injunction against infringement and damages for trademark dilution, false designation of origin, copyright infringement, false advertising, unfair competition and violations of California's Business and Professions Code. The Peter Jackson film, a motion picture adaptation of J.R.R. Tolkien's classic book slated to open tomorrow, December 14, continues the successful "middle earth" franchise created by the success of The Lord of the Rings film series. The motion picture epic trilogy reportedly has gleaned more than $3 billion to date.

Asylum has a history of creating relatively low-budget films with parodied titles of Hollywood blockbusters (e.g., "Snakes On A Train," "Transmorphers: Fall of Man," "American Warships"). The studios pointed out these alleged parodies are always timed to coincide with release of each major motion picture counterpart and use "confusingly similar titles."

In granting the restraining order, Judge Phillip S. Gutierrez said the plaintiffs satisfied the legal standard requiring a plaintiff to demonstrate it has a valid copyright infringement claim, that there would be imminent danger to the plaintiff if the order is not granted, that the plaintiff would suffer more and that the order would advance the public interest. The judge’s decision specifically notes that: "The evidence of the advertising and promotion for 'Age of Hobbits,' as well as the media coverage the film has received, provides support for Plaintiffs' contention that Asylum intended to deceive consumers by associating its movie with Plaintiffs' works." You can read the Order in its entirety right here, Order Granting Plaintiff’s Ex Parte Application for a Temporary Restraining Order.

As always, if you need help or more information, contact me, Joseph I. Rosenbaum (jrosenbaum@reedsmith.com), or any of the Reed Smith lawyers with whom you regularly work.

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