A Hollywood producer who filed an injunction demanding a Southampton pub stop calling itself The Hobbit has offered to "amicably resolve" the dispute over a pint.
Paul Zaentz's claim for copyright infringement against the colourful free house, which has held its name for more than 20 years, was criticised by Hobbit stars Stephen Fry and Ian McKellen. Zaentz, whose California-based Saul Zaentz company also owns rights to The Lord of the Rings, defended his actions but said he would consider offering the pub an official licence under the right circumstances.
"Regardless of the size of the company, if we didn't go after these infringements, then other people would say: 'If they can use them without authorisation, why can't we?'" Zaentz told the BBC. "When it's an established business, we like to get the company to acknowledge they are using our trademarks, stop selling infringing articles and then we will grant them a licence for a nominal fee – approximately $100 [£65] a year.
"We asked them to contact us and amicably resolve this and are open to any suggestions they have. I'd be glad to raise a pint with them the next time I'm over."
Fry, who is currently shooting his role as the Master of Laketown in director Peter Jackson's two-part adaptation of JRR Tolkien's fantasy novel, took to Twitter earlier this week in support of the pub. "Sometimes I'm ashamed of the business I'm in," he tweeted. "What pointless, self-defeating bullying."
McKellen, who reprises his role as wizard Gandalf in The Hobbit, said he was fully supportive of Fry's intervention.
"Gandalf's portrait hangs outside The Hobbit pub in Portswood, Southampton, and has done for the last 20 years and more," he wrote on his website. "I haven't been there but it's clearly not a place to ill-treat hobbits, elves, dwarves and wizards in any way. So what's the problem?"
Zaentz's company had given the pub, which serves bespoke cocktails named after Tolkien's characters, until the end of May to change its name or face costly legal action. An internet campaign against the move has now gathered more than 50,000 supporters on Facebook.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey – the first instalment of Jackson's adaptation – is set for global release on 14 December.
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