Tolkien Estate Blocks ‘JRR Token’ Cryptocurrency

The estate of the author of the fantasy epic ‘The Lord of the Rings’ has moved to block a cheeky move by a cryptocurrency developer.

JRR Tolkien was a British language professor and author of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the Hobbit and other books. The estate of JRR Tolkien fiercely protects his name and has now taken trademark action against the developer of a cryptocurrency called JRR Token.

The JRR Token cryptocurrency was launched in August, and included a video endorsement from Billy Boyd, the actor who played Pippin in the Lord of the Rings films.

Tolkien complaint

And the JRR Token cryptocurrency even tagged itself with the tagline “The One Token That Rules Them All”, the Guardian newspaper reported.

It also claimed that “Saruman was trying to unify Middle Earth under centralised rule whereas the fellowship wanted decentralisation. Cryptocurrency is literally a decentralised network.”

And it seems that websites selling and promoting the cryptocurrency, namely jrrtoken.com and thetokenofpower.com, featured rings, hobbit holes and a wizard like Gandalf.

This blatant attempt to capitalise on the Tolkien world quickly drew the eye of (no, not Sauron) but the Tolkien estate itself.

The Guardian reported it took action almost immediately against JRR Token, via the World Intellectual Property Organization’s arbitration procedure.

The estate argued the JRR Token product infringed its trademark rights to JRR Tolkien’s name, and that the domain name was “specifically designed to mislead internet users into believing that it and the website to which it resolves have some legitimate commercial connection” with Tolkien.

It pointed out that only the letters “L” and “I” were omitted from the domain name.

Developer response

The US-based developer said in response that JRR Token was intended to reference “a unique form of digital currency”, rather than the late fantasy author.

“The disputed domain name is not identical or confusingly similar to the Complainant’s trademark, the developer insisted. “This is primarily due to the clear difference in meaning and commercial impression between the disputed domain name and the Complainant’s trademark, as well as the differences in the sound and visual appearance of the marks.”

The WIPO’s arbitrator however, disagreed.

“Due to the fame of the Complainant’s trademark, the Panel considers that it is likely that the Respondent registered the disputed domain name with the intention to take advantage of the Complainant’s reputation,” it conclude.

“The Respondent did not address the assertions in the Complaint that the disputed domain name comprises an obvious impersonation of the Complainant, or that the Respondent’s website creates a false association with the Complainant,” it added. “The Panel also notes that there is no disclaimer or other wording on the website at the disputed domain name that tries to dispel any such false association.”

Case closed

The Tolkien estate has now recovered the domain name JRRToken.com, which as of Wednesday remains offline.

It has also stopped the developer operating under that name, and has obtained their undertaking to delete any infringing online content,.

In addition, the US-based developer has also paid the estate’s legal costs.

“The Tolkien estate is vigilant in preventing unauthorised parties from taking advantage of the JRR Tolkien name and the content of JRR Tolkien’s literary works,” its solicitor Steven Maier was quoted by the Guardian newspaper as saying.

“This was a particularly flagrant case of infringement, and the estate is pleased that it has been concluded on satisfactory terms.”

Tom Jowitt

Tom Jowitt is a leading British tech freelancer and long standing contributor to Silicon UK. He is also a bit of a Lord of the Rings nut...

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