Couple Face David Vs Goliath Trade Mark Battle As Hollywood Firm Takes Offence At Name of UK Wine Maker
Written by Fozia Cheychi on 22 February 2016« Return to Reading Room
Elise and Stuart Whittaker own ‘Giraffe & Hobbit’- a wine company, the name came about as a poke of fun at their striking difference between their respective heights.
The couple’s efforts to trade mark their company name have been opposed by American company, The Saul Zaentz Company- the owners of the trade mark Hobbit. As such the couple are set to appear at a hearing at the Intellectual Property Office in Newport on March 30 2016 after they were issued with a notice of threatened opposition.
The term Hobbit was coined by author JRR Tolkien to describe the diminutive creatures that feature in his bestselling novels, The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings.
The couple launched their business about 15 months ago, their company specialises in importing French wines from tiny vineyards. The unique name was chosen as a result of their 4-inch difference in height.
Mr Whittaker stated “I wanted to run to the hills but Elsie wasn’t perturbed by this”, he added “it is such a common word though and it’s used for various kinds of different things. We are not calling ourselves The Hobbit. We have nothing to do with anything that they are doing. It’s like the big guys fighting the little guys. I think we have a very strong case. I’m 100% behind it.”
Mrs Whittaker a trained barrister commented: “We are a wine company and have nothing to do with films, unless you have that background or knowledge of law, you would be frightened by it.” On the choice of name she added “We are Giraffe & Hobbit resulting from the fact that I am 5ft 10in and my husband is vertically challenged with a mere 5ft 6in behind him”. She further added “The reason why we decided to trade mark it was because when we came up with name, we thought it was really good and wanted to protect it. We were both in agreement that if we didn’t trade mark it then anyone could use the name. It is such a common word, we really believe that we are going to come out with a good result.”
A spokesman for the The Saul Zaentz Company commented: “Hobbit is a registered trade mark owned by The Saul Zaentz Company. The Intellectual Property Office in the UK has recognised this fact by issuing numerous trade mark registrations for that mark and other marks derived from the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit books and movies to The Saul Zaentz Company. No-one is entitled to use these marks unless they first obtain a license to do so. Numerous businesses have been licensed to use these on a variety of goods and services.”
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