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The Hobbit regulars celebrate Hollywood's truce
DRINKERS at The Hobbit pub in Southampton are today celebrating the truce which means their favourite pub can continue how they like it.
As revealed by the Daily Echo last night, a truce looks to have been called in the clash between the little Hobbit pub in Southampton and the might of Hollywood that wanted it to change its name.
The pub was offered the chance to pay a token fee in a bid to break the deadlock – and keep its name without fear of breaching copyright.
That olive branch will now be examined by lawyers but punters are now confident the 20-year history of the popular Bevois Valley watering hole – with its famous name – can be preserved for future generations.
The movie producer at the centre of the row last night told the Daily Echo he wants to resolve the dispute “amicably”.
Paul Zaentz said a nominal annual licence fee of just $100 (around £63) would be enough to ensure the Tolkien trademarks owned by his company are not being abused.
When the Daily Echo broke the news to The Hobbit’s delighted landlady Stella Roberts she said she would be happy to pay such a fee to keep the pub’s name.
Campaigners last night flocked to celebrate the apparent victory in the battle, which began when lawyers for the Saul Zaentz Company sent a letter to the Bevois Valley Pub, and its owners Punch Taverns, complaining about apparent copyright infringements.
As reported, celebrities including Stephen Fry and Sir Ian McKellan – who played Gandalf in The Lord of the Rings films – gave their backing to the pub’s cause, while nearly 50,000 people have given support to an online campaign.
However, Mr Zaentz said it was never his intention to try to force the pub out of busi ness, but he had to act to protect the trademark rights his firm has built up on JRR Tolkein’s works.
Speaking from California, he said: “We’ve tried to be very gracious.
“We said in the letter, rather than engage in protracted and expensive litigation, (we) would prefer to resolve this matter amicably.
“We said we would be willing to consider any proposition they might make, but to my knowledge we’ve had no response yet.
“We think asking for a nominal licence fee is very reasonable. I think $100 would be about the maximum we would charge.
“We’re not against these people.
“I absolutely don’t want to see it closed. If I’m ever in the neighbourhood I’ll stop in for a drink.
“Our intention is not to put any established business out of business. I just don’t want to do that, because people work hard to make businesses successful. We had to do this. We had no choice.
“The law says that unless you protect your trademark it becomes diluted and you can lose it.
“It’s our responsibility to the Tolkein estate to go after this, or their charities will ultimately lose out.
“If it wasn’t for the Internet we probably wouldn’t have found out about this pub. They’ve been posting a lot of things recently.”
After being told of Mr Zaentz’s comments, a relieved Ms Roberts, 41, said she believes a resolution can now be found to save The Hobbit.
She said: “That’s brilliant. We can’t complain at that.
“It is such a relief. It has been very stressful not knowing what is going on. We have all been upset because we are very proud of what we do here. But the support we have been receiving has been overwhelming.”
Mr Zaentz suggested part of his company’s action, which he insisted was “standard practice” that has happened many times, revolves around “unauthorised merchandise” and use of film images by the pub.
Ms Roberts said Punch Taverns’ lawyers would now have to examine any deal, and look at whether it could impact on The Hobbit’s popular cocktails, named after characters like Gandalf and Gollum.
She said: “We don’t want to lose the identity of the pub and we don’t want to lose the names.”