Are names used in "The Lord of the Rings" trademarked?

Discussion in 'Indie Business' started by Geom, Aug 22, 2011.

  1. Geom

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    Can I legally use names from the Lord of the Rings in my game? Or are all those names (names used in the JRR Tolkien novels) trademarked?

    For examples, I was wanting to use names like "Middle Earth", Sauron, and the names of some of the Orc characters.
     
  2. JeBuS

    JeBuS New Member

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    Tolkien's works are copyrighted. Don't bother.
     
  3. Arkadesh

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    Depends. Tolkien used many existing names from nordic mythology and other sources, so these can be used freely.
     
  4. Geom

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    Arkadesh, yeah. For example, I hear that the term "hobbit" has some IP restrictions, but "orc" obviously doesn't.

    Mainly, I wanted to use the term "Middle Earth" in describing the setting for my game, and use some of Tolkien's orc names (Melkor, Golfimbul, Bolg, Boldog etc.) for the AI Orc players. That's about it. But I don't know how to investigate the legality of doing that.

    Since the LOTR books are copyrighted, does that automatically copyright any unique names in the books?
     
  5. JeBuS

    JeBuS New Member

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    Nobody here is a lawyer, so our opinions are worth exactly nothing. Just make up your own damn names and get on with the important business of making a game.
     
  6. HL706

    HL706 New Member

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    As the orc names you mentioned are just names I wouldn't personally see an issue with it. However, naming an Orc Bolg and placing him in "Middle Earth" may be a little too close to the source inspiration. But, I'm no lawyer so that's just pure opinion.
     
  7. Nexic

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    Using the names of the orcs is probably fine. Using "Middle Earth" probably isn't.
     
  8. Applewood

    Moderator Original Member Indie Author

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    This is a self answering question. If you're particularly wedded to the idea of using specific names and settings from the Tolkien world instead of making up your own, then you're clearly hoping to gain a commercial advantage from doing so, however you try to dress it up.

    Which doubtless means you should seek permission or do something else.
     
  9. anpd

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    Tolkien used Middle Earth from Norse mythology were Midgard is the place humans lived and was translated into Middle Earth. So shouldn't be a problem if that is the only thing you want to use. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Midgard
     
  10. Nexic

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    Just because it's translated from a word in another language, doesn't mean that term can't be protected. The arabic "روك" translated means "Rockstar". Does that stop Rockstar games from protecting that term?
     
  11. papillon

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    They can't prevent anyone from having a character named Rockstar, though. :) In a case like that it depends on HOW you use it.

    The particular term "Middle Earth" is pretty Tolkien-specific afaik, but there are LOTS of stories set in The Middle World, or Midgard, or Mittegarde, or other variations. If the mythological background is of interest to your story it's not hard to find a version that will work for you; if what you really want is "Like Tolkien" then you're more obviously heading towards the infringing zone.

    There would probably not be any difficulty with using ONE of Tolkien's orc names along with a bunch of other orc names from other sources, because it would then look like an homage to the orcish origin. But if you want multiple names, this sounds very strongly like either you have ZERO imagination or you really want to make a game in Tolkien's universe. Which you can't without permission.
     
  12. anpd

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    Didn't realise it was Tolkien that did the translation :D
     
  13. Geom

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    Thanks guys. Yeah, it sounds like I'd better not use those names verbatim, without mutating them at least slightly.

    So maybe, the name "Bolg" becomes "Balg", etc.

    I completely concede that I have much less imagination than Tolkien.
     
  14. Jack Norton

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    There are some "random fantasy names generator" sites online, when I am stuck I use those to make up names for my games :)
     
  15. Adrian Lopez

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    Tolkien borrowed heavily from other sources while writing both The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Hell, even the name Gandalf is taken from Norse mythology. It's a shame that so many people think he's the source of much of what he ultimately appropriated.

    Having said that, whatever Tolkien borrowed from other sources he nevertheless adapted and transformed into something very much his own. It's one thing to borrow from the same sources as Tolkien did, but it's quite another to make something that duplicates even those elements specific to Tolkien's works.

    In short, be careful.
     
  16. Digital Entanglement

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    I'm curious as to why you would dabble in this area at all? Middle Earth is copyrighted, so all settings inside of it would be more or less off limits. This doesn't include NAMES per se, but why would you want to confuse people with a game NOT based in Middle Earth? 99% of the gamers out there are going to pick up on them at the drop of a hat, they are quite unique. Parody and satire is allowed of course.
     
  17. Mattias Gustavsson

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    A lot of the names are trademarked. Middle-earth itself is trademarked, and specifically in the area of videogames: http://www.tmquest.com/77198534.htm
    There's also multiple trademarks for Sauron (as well as for Smaug, Elrond, Gandalf and so on). The orc names might not be trademarked, but they would still fall under copyright. You might argue that you are not infringing on Tolkien works (by claiming to have drawn from the same source as Tolkien), but Tolkien Estate, Tolkien Enterprises or Middle-earth Enterprises are free to disagree. If they do, court will have to settle the dispute, and even if you would be in the right, would you have enough money to go up against any of those three giants?
     
  18. Adrian Lopez

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    The Lord of the Rings version of Risk I have at home claims ownership of a whole bunch of names taken from the books, including many that should properly be called generic. They'd probably go to court over it, too, although I wonder to what degree a trademark can really apply to content rather than branding, especially when it's a trademark that has meaning independent of the trademarked product(s).

    Parasites is what they are, making money off a dead man and stealing from the public domain.
     
  19. jlv

    jlv New Member

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  20. Digital Entanglement

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    Ha, that's true!

    I heard the one way around copyright in fan fic is to lemon it up. Companies don't normally want to read evidence containing raunchy descriptions of what Harry is doing to Ron with his wand. To transfer this to a game realm would still be dangerous though.
     

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