J.R.R. Tolkien estate settles Warner Bros slots lawsuit

LOTR slot gameIf you’ve been frequenting online casinos for a few years now, you may remember the Lord of the Rings online slot game, which was once considered one of the most popular pokies on the Web.

The Lord of the Rings pokies game was pulled off the online casino market in 2012 after the estate of Lord of the Rings creator J.R.R. Tolkien sued Warner Brothers for copyright infringements and contract breaches, claiming the film studio overstepped its rights when merchandising the Lord of the Rings franchise.

The $80 million lawsuit was filed by Tolkien’s estate and book published HarperCollins against Time Warner Inc, New Line Cinema and Saul Zaentz Co, companies that held various marketing rights in the films merchandising. The basis of the lawsuit was that Warner Bros only had permission to create “tangible” merchandise based on the books and that using the franchise to create an online slot game or other digital exploitation was “highly offensive.”

The lawsuit states, “Fans have publicly expressed confusion and consternation at seeing The Lord of the Rings associated with the morally questionable (and decidedly non-literary) world of online and casino gambling.”

It claims the association between Tolkien and the online gambling industry has irreparably harmed the reputation of the revered author, who died in 1973. The lawsuit says, “Not only does the production of gambling games patently exceed the scope of the defendants rights, but this infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien’s devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien’s legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works.”

Tolkien’s estate was first alerted to the existence of the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Rings online slot game via a spam email to its attorney in September 2010. After the lawsuit was filed, Warner Bros counter sued, saying the lawsuit cost the studio millions of dollars in licensing opportunities and “decreased exposure for the Hobbit films.”

After five years in the legal system, a filing by the Central District Court of California
states the lawsuit was settled out of court this week for an undisclosed amount. It is not clear if a financial settlement was reached, and if so, for what amount and to whom the settlement was paid.

The Lord of the Rings slot game was part of Microgaming’s progressive jackpot pokies network, featuring five rows, three reels and a 243 Ways to Win format. Symbols were made up of beloved Lord of the Rings characters from the Warner Bros film, including Frodo, Sam, Merry, Bilbo Baggins, Legolas and Saruman. It’s four-tiered progressive jackpot bonus structure consisted of a major jackpot with a base value of $1,000,000.

When the Lord of the Rings slot game was taken off the market in 2012, Microgaming replaced it with The Dark Knight progressive jackpot game, which used the exact same format but replaced characters and symbols with those from the 2008 Batman film.

The Dark Knight online pokies game and its sequel The Dark Knight Rises were pulled from the market in June 2016 after their licenses expired.