A federal judge in Los Angeles has blocked Tuesday’s planned DVD and Blu-Ray release of “Age of the Hobbits,” Global Asylum Inc.’s spoof of Peter Jackson’s blockbuster “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey,” due out three days later.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip S. Gutierrez issued the temporary restraining order Monday afternoon based on the likelihood that Asylum would lose a trademark infringement lawsuit brought against it by Warner Bros. Entertainment Inc., New Line Cinema, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. and The Saul Zaentz Co., which own the exclusive rights to produce and distribute films based on J.R.R. Tolkien’s novels “The Hobbit” and “The Lord of the Rings.”
Asylum’s case is predicated on the notion that the Hobbits in its film aren’t the Tolkien characters, but rather “a recently-discovered species of prehistoric humans that lived in Indonesia.”
“Asylum asserts that it uses the term ‘Hobbit’ in the film title to refer to the species, which was given the nickname ‘hobbits’ by scientists who discovered the species” in 2003, according to Gutierrez’ order.
Gutierrez heard oral arguments in the case Nov. 7.
Judge Philip S. Gutierrez
On Monday he said the Hobbit-as-species-not-Tolkien-character argument was disingenuous, particularly in light of the fact that scientists who identified the small Indonesian people as Homo Floresiensis gave them the nickname “hobbits” because they resembled the fictional Tolkien characters.
Moreover, Gutierrez said, “Asylum has also failed to present any evidence that its film was ever publicly advertised as being about Homo Floresiensis, which further demonstrates to the court that Asylum intended to associate its film with the Hobbit (trademarks) in order to deceive potential viewers.”
Gutierrez ruled that releasing the so-called “mockbuster” would do immediate and irreparable harm to the Hobbit trademark owners due to the confusion created by the similarity of the two films’ names.
Gutierrez set a date of Jan. 28, 2013, for an order to show cause.