Middle-earth Enterprises

(Redirected from Tolkien Enterprises)

Middle-earth Enterprises, formerly known as Tolkien Enterprises, is a subdivision of the Embracer Freemode division of Embracer Group and formerly a trade name for a division of The Saul Zaentz Company. The subdivision owns the worldwide exclusive rights to certain elements of J. R. R. Tolkien's two most famous literary works: The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. These elements include the names of characters contained within as well as the names of places, objects and events within them, and certain short phrases and sayings from the works.[1]

In August 2022, Embracer Group announced that it had entered into an agreement to purchase Middle-earth Enterprises from The Saul Zaentz Company.[2]

Background and historyEdit

J. R. R. Tolkien, the author of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, sold the film, stage and merchandising rights of those works to United Artists in 1968. They in turn sold them to The Saul Zaentz Company in 1976, which licenses them through the former Tolkien Enterprises, now named Middle-earth Enterprises.[3] United Artists retained distribution rights.[4]

In 1977, Rankin/Bass licensed the rights to produce an animated version of The Hobbit, which was broadcast on NBC. In 1978, Tolkien Enterprises and the distributor United Artists funded and released an animated version of The Lord of the Rings directed by Ralph Bakshi, which covered approximately the first half of the Lord of the Rings.[4]

In 1999, the company severed their licensing agreement with Iron Crown Enterprises (ICE) for role-playing games set in Middle-earth after ICE ceased developing new products for this line. This contributed to ICE filing for bankruptcy in 2001. Tolkien Enterprises then made a new licensing agreement with Decipher Inc. for their The Lord of the Rings Roleplaying Game, which published content from 2002 to 2006.

Initially, Miramax was backing the production of Peter Jackson's The Lord of the Rings films in 1997, but was restricted by then-owner Disney, who demanded that they turn the story into one film instead of two films, thus Jackson brought the project to New Line Cinema, who acquired the rights to develop The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit from Miramax for about $12 million. (Miramax retained a 5% stake in the gross.)[4] Principal photography for Jackson's The Lord of the Rings film trilogy was conducted concurrently in New Zealand from 11 October 1999 through to 22 December 2000. Produced under license from Tolkien Enterprises and released by New Line in 2001, 2002, and 2003, the films met critical and commercial success. However, in August 2004, Tolkien Enterprises sued New Line for $20 million in unpaid royalties based on the difference between gross and net profits. An out-of-court settlement was reached in August 2005, though details were not released.

Video game rights to Tolkien's literary works were first licensed to Vivendi, which produced The Fellowship of the Ring in 2002 and The Hobbit in 2003. At around the same time licensing agreements for products relating to the films produced by Peter Jackson were obtained by Electronic Arts (EA), leading to the release of a series of games, starting with The Two Towers in 2002. In 2005, EA acquired the rights to produce games based on the literary works as well,[5] producing further titles up to the release of The Lord of the Rings: Conquest in 2009, when the licensing agreement expired.[6] Video game rights then passed to Warner Brothers.[7]

In 2010, the name was changed to Middle-earth Enterprises.[1]

In 2011, Cubicle 7 produced The One Ring Roleplaying Game, a licensed role-playing game set in Middle-earth, in collaboration with Sophisticated Games. While the game featured its own unique rules, Cubicle 7 announced on March 14, 2016, that it would create an adaptation using tabletop gaming rules compatible with Dungeons & Dragons.[8] In 2020, Cubicle 7 lost the rights, which were then relicensed to Free League Publishing, which published the second edition of The One Ring in 2021[9] and announced their D&D-compatible version coming in late 2022.[10]

In August 2022, it was announced that Middle-earth Enterprises was being purchased by Embracer Group, the parent company of THQ Nordic.[11]

Legal disputesEdit

In March 2012, it was reported that The Hobbit, a public house in Southampton, England, had been served with papers by Middle-earth Enterprises outlining breach of copyright over its name.[12][13] The Hobbit pub continues to trade under that name as of October 2020. The Hungry Hobbit café in Birmingham, near where J. R. R. Tolkien grew up, was also threatened with legal action in 2011.[14]

In November 2012, the Tolkien Estate, trustee and publishers sued Middle-earth Enterprises, Warner Bros., and New Line Cinema for infringing Tolkien's copyrights by producing casino and video games using his characters. The original license to Tolkien's works was limited to the right to sell "tangible" products such as "figurines, tableware, stationery items, clothing, and the like", but did not cover "electronic or digital rights, rights in media yet to be devised or other intangibles such as rights in services".[15] Tolkien's estate claimed that the defendants' actions had caused "irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy". The lawsuit spent five years in discovery and was settled "amicably" out of court in July 2017, before a trial was held.[16]


As of December 2022, the company's current licensees are as follows.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "About". Middle-earth Enterprises. Archived from the original on 14 July 2011.
  2. ^ "Embracer Group enters into agreement to acquire IP rights to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit literary works by J.R.R Tolkien". Embracer Group. 18 August 2022. Retrieved 18 August 2022.
  3. ^ Dotinga, William (26 November 2012). "Tolkiens Aghast at Warner Bros.' Exploitation". Courthouse News. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  4. ^ a b c Quinn, Karl (14 December 2013). "Lord of the Rings a chronicle of legal disputes". The Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 6 November 2017.
  5. ^ Ea Granted Rights to Develop the Lord of the Rings Games Based on J. R. R. Tolkien'S Epic Literary Fiction, 25 July 2005, EA press release gamershell.com
  6. ^ IncGamers: Tolkien IP License, 23 February 2009 incgamers.com
  7. ^ Lord of the Rings game rights now at Warner Bros Archived 15 April 2009 at the Wayback Machine weblogs.variety.com
  8. ^ [1] Archived 15 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine"cubicle7.co.uk D&D comes to Middle-Earth, 14, March 2016, Cubicle 7 press release"
  9. ^ [2]"Lord of the Rings tabletop RPG The One Ring is getting a second edition"
  10. ^ [3]"Free League Announces The Lord of the Rings™ Roleplaying For 5E"
  11. ^ Embracer goes on spending spree: buys Lord of the Rings IP rights, Tripwire Interactive, and more
  12. ^ "Hobbit pub in Southampton threatened with legal action". BBC News. 13 March 2012.
  13. ^ Brooks, Xan (14 March 2012). "Stephen Fry joins The Hobbit pub's fight with Hollywood". The Guardian.
  14. ^ "Hungry Hobbit café told to change name". BBC News. 21 November 2011.
  15. ^ "Tolkien estate sues Hobbit producers over video and gambling games". The Guardian. 20 November 2012.
  16. ^ Warner Bros., Tolkien Estate Settle $80 Million 'Hobbit' Lawsuit
  17. ^ TURBINE AND TOLKIEN ENTERPRISES EXTEND RELATIONSHIP Archived 7 September 2008 at the Wayback Machine turbine.com
  18. ^ "Fria Ligan | News".
  19. ^ "UNEXPECTED TOR2 UPDATE – Cubicle 7".

External linksEdit