Professor Banned From Using The Word ‘Hobbit’ In Title Of Lecture
I honestly don’t know what Tolkien would have made of this.
Almost 40 years after Tolkien’s death, Dr Brent Alloway, associate professor at Victoria University in New Zealand, had planned a public lecture about a three foot tall species called Homo floresiensis. Entitled “The Other Hobbit”, it was to coincide with the premiere of the new Hobbit movie on the 14th of December.
Being an upstanding citizen – at a guess – Alloway went to the people who hold the international rights to the Tolkien brand, one Middle Earth Enterprises. He was informed by their lawyers that:
It is not possible for our client to allow generic use of the trademark HOBBIT.
That settles that, then.
As Alloway pointed out in yesterday’s Guardian, the word ‘hobbit’ is in the Oxford English Dictionary, so one assumes it’s in general usage within the English language, and wouldn’t be trademarkable -- that's the normal take on this sort of issue.
The word 'hobbit' (in the Tolkien context) is frequently used with apparent impunity in the written press and reference to 'hobbit' in the fossil context is frequently referred to in the scientific literature (and is even mentioned in Wikipedia on Homo floresiensis). I realise I'm in unfamiliar word proprietry territory (as an earth scientist) … so I've gone for the easiest option and simply changed our event title.
The lecture is now called “A Newly Discovered Species of Little People – Unraveling the Legend Behind Homo Floresiensis”, which frankly isn’t quite as interesting, but I suppose it’s easier than getting sued by a multi-national.
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