Warners lawsuit win means you'll never see that Hobbit mockbuster

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Jan 14, 2013, 2:52 PM EST

We'd heard for a while that MGM and the folks behind The Hobbit were trying to shut down a "mockbuster" using the Hobbit name—and now it looks like they might've succeeded. Sorry, straight-to-DVD fans, we may never get to see Age of the Hobbits now.

The "mockbuster" studio The Asylum, which makes a living cranking out films with similar titles (and often storylines) to big-budget fare, found itself on the business end of a lawsuit from Warner Bros. when it lined up its Age of the Hobbits to hit shelves the same week that Peter Jackson's big-budget Hobbit flick opens.

The studio claimed the use of the word "Hobbit" infringed on J.R.R. Tolkien's work and could confuse potential fans, and a judge issued a temporary restraining order to halt the film's release this week.

To their credit, the folks at The Asylum argued "Hobbit" was fair game, because scientists had adopted the phrase to name a recently discovered race of shorter-than-normal humans. But the argument fell through when the judge pointed out the scientists got the name from Tolkien's work.

Here's an excerpt from the court ruling, via The Hollywood Reporter:

"The majority of factors weigh in favor of a finding of likelihood of confusion, and no factor weighs against such a finding. Moreover, the finding is particularly strong on the three factors that courts have found to be the most important, especially in the context of the Internet: similarity of the marks, relatedness of the goods and use of similar marketing channels...

Asylum's argument appears to ignore the connection between the term used to describe Homo Floresiensis and Tolkien's hobbits. Asylum treats the use of the two terms as completely unrelated, but the terms are in fact closely related: Scientists gave Homo Floresiensis the nickname 'Hobbit' because its appearance resembled Tolkien's hobbits, as described in his novels. ... Given that Homo Floresiensis received the nickname 'Hobbit' specifically because of its resemblance to Tolkien's fictional hobbits, the Court finds Asylum's argument that its movie is wholly unrelated to Tolkien's work because it is about Homo Floresiensis to be disingenuous."

In the meantime, it looks like Jackson's Hobbit will be the only one on the market for at least a month. The judge has scheduled a followup hearing on Jan. 28, with Age stuck in purgatory until then.

Check out the trailer below and let us know if you think this "mockbuster" would've really confused potential moviegoers:

(Via The Hollywood Reporter)