A short husband and his tall wife have found themselves embroiled in a trademark dispute over whether they should be allowed to have the word ‘Hobbit’ in the title of their budding wine business.
Giraffe and Hobbit, which imports Provencal wines from France, was set up by Stuart and Elise Whittaker in 2014 – the name intended to poke fun at the couples’ significant height difference.
However, Paul Zaentz’s film production company, Middle-Earth Enterprises, which owns the rights to much of JRR Tolkien’s work, has contested the couple’s attempt to register Giraffe and Hobbit as a trademark.
“We applied for the trademark with the Intellectual Property Office… it had nothing to do with the Hobbit film or Lord of the Rings.
“It is a reference to the fact my wife is quite tall and I’m not so tall,” said Mr Whittaker.
But just two months after attempting to register the name, and one day before the couple’s trademark request was due to be granted, the duo received a Notice of Threatened Opposition from The Saul Zaentz Company.
Mr Whittaker, 34, who has a Master’s degree in Law, said: “Tolkien admitted himself that he didn’t come up with the word ‘Hobbit’ – it was mentioned in a great many other places.
“It has a common usage in films, books and articles to describe little people”.
Back in 2012, a themed pub in Southampton called The Hobbit found itself at loggerheads with The Saul Zaentz Company for almost 20 years.
The dispute was eventually resolved after actors affiliated with the multi-million dollar Lord of the Rings film franchise, including Sir Ian McKellen, rushed to the establishment’s defence.
“A lot of people don’t understand trademark law, but there’s enough there for us to have a really good chance,” Mr Whittaker said.
The couple are due to have a hearing at the Intellectual Property Office in Newport on 30th March to defend their trademark application.