Warner Bros’ claims against the estate of The Lord Of The Rings author J.R.R Tolkien will live to fight another day. A federal judge today rejected the estate trustees and Fourth Age Ltd’s motion to dismiss WB and the Saul Zaentz Company’s counterclaims in the multimillion-dollar court battle. “Fourth Age’s Motions to Dismiss Amended Counterclaims and Special Motions to Strike Amended Counterclaims are DENIED,” wrote U.S. District Court judge Audrey Collins in a dense 6-page order (read it here). In March, WB and Zaentz fired back at the estate’s November 2012 $80 million copyright and merchandising lawsuit. The defendant claimed it was hurt financially and had its rights to the author’s properties undermined. WB said in the March filing that the online and other rights being contested by the estate and publisher HarperCollins were worked out in a 2010 re-grant deal and that the plaintiffs have been receiving royalties under that agreement. As one example of suffering financial pain, WB said that it lost millions in foregone license fees after having to cancel an online gambling license agreement with Microgaming because of the estate’s suit. Now those fortunes might shift. Today’s ruling allows the studio and Zaentz to fully pursue their case against the estate — a case that is already moving forward on a parallel track to today’s courtroom action. “Discovery is already underway and we hope to see further developments soon,” WB’s lawyer Daniel Petrocelli of LA firm O’Melveny & Meyers told me. Someone in this legal drama is going to be grabbing the ring, if you know what I mean.
Deadline's Dominic Patten - tip him here.