Saul Zaentz Co., has filed two trademark applications covering a pair of phrases now associated with Amazon’s forthcoming TV series: “Rings of Power” and “The Lord of the Rings: The Rings of Power”.
The company is the current owner of exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It also announced in early February that it was putting all those rights up for sale.
The trademark applications, which were filed with the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) on April 5 through German intellectual property specialists Boehmert & Boehmert, cover a wide array merchandising for goods and services under different categories.
Closer examination of the two filings, however, reveal that the key crossover between the two seems to cover electronic downloadable and online games and trading cards under Nice categories #9 and #41.
Whether that indicates that a Rings of Power-associated video game might be in the works as part of some partnership with Amazon remains to be seen. But, since the Saul Zaentz Company holds in perpetuity the trademarks on all the characters and places in the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, it might have to be involved in merchandising deals.
According to Variety’s sources, the argument stems from disagreement about whether the studio has met ongoing obligations needed to maintain the long-term license that it has held since the late 1990s.
In a statement to Variety, a Warner Bros. spokeswoman said:
New Line Cinema has maintained the theatrical film rights, both live-action and animated, for over two decades now. We are currently in production on our anime film ‘The Lord of the Rings: The War of the Rohirrim’ and look forward to bringing audiences back to Middle-earth.
As Variety points out, license deals such as this “often involve producers conducting a certain level of development and production activity by pre-determined dates, among other clauses.”
However, it is the Saul Zaetnz Co. (through its subsidiary, Middle-earth Enterprises) that holds the rights to exploit The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit “in movies, video games, merchandising, live events and theme parks.”
Variety adds that this includes limited matching rights should the Tolkien Estate make movies or other content based on two Tolkien books published after his death: The Silmarillion, and The Unfinished Tales of Númenor and Middle-earth.
The Saul Zaentz Co. also recently announced that it will auction all its Tolkien IP rights. Universal and Warner Bros. are both reported to be interested.
Entertainment rag Variety is reporting that The Saul Zaentz Company is set to sell all of its Tolkien IP.
The company holds, according to its site, “exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of J.R.R. Tolkien including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.”
It originally acquired the rights in 1976 in an arrangement with United Artists. It subsequently licensed rights to filmmaker Ralph Bakshi for an animated film (released in 1978) and for director Peter Jackson to produce live-action trilogies of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
Variety states that the sale could be worth at least US $2 billion, “based on recent high valuations for top-tier IP and content producers”. ACF Investment Bank is currently shopping a deal around with a number of prospective buyers.
As is to be expected, the internet, our discussion forums, and comments to our story from yesterday are abuzz with the news broken by Variety magazine yesterday of talks between Warner Brothers and Amazon to make a series adaptation based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings. Since there are many outstanding questions, we thought we’d go back over some of the background related to the movie and television rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, as well as relate some additional information also published yesterday at Deadline Hollywood.