The idea of a JRR Token cryptocurrency might be seen as an amusing parody, especially with the “The One Token That Rules Them All” tagline. Unfortunately, the company that created it didn’t stop to ask the estate of J.R.R. Tolkien whether there would be a problem with their choice. The company claimed that their use of something so similar to Tolkien’s name, along with the similarities between their tagline and the Lord of the Rings “One Ring to Rule Them All” line was fair use and protected.
Tolkien’s estate disagreed, and so did the World Intellectual Property Organization. The matter went to arbitration there, when the estate of Tolkien lodged a complaint. The company’s argument was that their token’s name didn’t have anything to do with the late fantasy author, and that it just coincidentally reminded people of Tolkien. In its ruling, the WIPO indicated that the company didn’t have any compelling argument as to why the name was funny, or how it was specifically used as a parody.
Instead, argued the arbitrator, the only reason the name was chosen was to make a tie-in with Tolkien’s estate, because that had the potential to pique people’s interest and bring in more revenue for the company. The use of the domain name, therefore, wasn’t something the company could argue was fair or just, and the estate of Tolkien had the right to require that the cryptocurrency company cease and desist in its use of the name.
Taking commercial advantage of someone else’s trademark is naturally frowned upon, and it’s also a serious legal matter. If the company could have proven how it was parodying Tolkien, or there were other significant and valuable reasons for its allegedly unconnected token name, it may have been allowed to continue. For now, though, Tolkien’s estate has won the battle. Whether the company tries again remains to be seen, since it’s possible they will make a new argument in the future.
At The Estate Planning & Legacy Law Center, we can help you evaluate and incorporate your digital assets and cryptocurrency in your overall estate plan. To learn more and to schedule a meeting, contact us today!