The Tolkien estate has launched an $80m lawsuit against Warner Brothers for taking its merchandising efforts outside of their original agreement.
The merchandising deal held by Warner Brothers, New Line and Saul Zaentz only covers tangible products. The estate notes that Warner Brothers has 'with increasing boldness' overstepped the agreement and is particularly unhappy with the notion of video games only available through Facebook or on tablet and mobile devices.
The Tolkien estate is not claiming all Lord of the Rings based video games are included in this complaint however. It is only the digital only titles that the estate considers 'highly offensive'.
'The original contracting parties thus contemplated a limited grant of the right to sell consumer products of the type regularly merchandised at the time such as figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing and the like,' reads the complaint. 'They did not include any grant of exploitations such as electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services.'
Lord of the Rings has made an appearance on Facebook in the form of The One Ring from Welsh developer Microcosm, although the title has since re-branded itself as The Mythic Isle and removed any references to Tolkien's Middle Earth.
The legal action was allegedly first triggered in 2010 when one of the estate's lawyers received a spam email advertising the Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game.
One of the three companies under fire, Saul Zaentz, previously threatened legal action against Southampton pub The Hobbit back in March, serving it with a cease and desist order over its name. The pub has been trading for more than 20 years
Most recently, the Lord of the Rings has received the Lego video game treatment with the title launching last week to a strong critical reception.