U.S. District Judge Philip Gutierrez in Los Angeles has granted Warner Bros., New Line Cinema, MGM and producer Saul Zaentz a temporary restraining order against Global Asylum’s newest mock-buster, Age of the Hobbits. The flick was to be released straight to video three days before Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey opened in theaters on Dec. 14. The judge said the hobbit trademarks fell into the fanciful or arbitrary category, which receive maximum protection as they are wholly made-up with no discernible meaning. He was unpersuaded by Asylum’s argument that the titles were not confusingly similar because they were not identical. Plaintiffs presented “evidence from a weekly tracking study conducted by Nielsen National Research Group, in which 30 percent to 40 percent of survey respondents exhibited confusion about the source of Age of Hobbits. Confusion rates of 25 percent to 50 percent offer support for likelihood of confusion ,while rates below 20 percent generally require corroborating evidence. The court held that the majority of factors weighed in favor of a finding of likelihood of confusion, particularly the similarity of the marks, relatedness of goods and use of similar marketing channels. The judge obeserved: “There is substantial likelihood that consumers will be confused by Age of the Hobbits and mistakenly purchase the film intending to purchase The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.” The court scheduled a late Janurary hearing on an order to show cause why the TRO should not become a preliminary injunction. Asylum has changed the name of the film to Clash of Empires on its website. Josh Rottenberg of EW.com details Asylum’s other mock-busters: Transmorphers: Fall of Man, Abraham Lincoln Vs. Zombies, Snakes on a Train, and Paranormal Entity. After Universal sued them earlier this year, Asylum also changed the name of its low-budget American Battleship to American Warships. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey set the record as the biggest December opening of all time.
Judge finds too familiar a ring in this ‘Hobbit’
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