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The Margin: J.R.R. Tolkien estate to ‘JRR Token’ cryptocurrency: You shall not pass

One does not simply launch a “Lord of the Rings”-themed cryptocurrency …

The estate of J.R.R. Tolkien has blocked a crypto called “JRR Token” that rolled out last August, which drew its name from the late English fantasy writer. 

“JRR Token” also referenced the author’s iconic fantasy trilogy “The Lord of the Rings” — which inspired Peter Jackson’s film trilogy that raked in $2.991 billion at the box office — by running with the tagline, “The One Token That Rules Them All” on its website. This referenced the “One Ring” that ruled the other magical “Rings of Power” in the tale’s mythology. 

Once the Tolkien estate became aware of this token, however, the response was basically “you shall not pass” — to borrow one of the wizard Gandalf’s most iconic lines from “The Fellowship of the Ring” book and film.

The estate took action by turning to the World Intellectual Property Organization’s arbitration procedure, the Guardian reported, arguing that the token infringed on trademark rights to Tolkien’s name. What’s more, the filing claimed that the token’s domain name was “specifically designed to mislead internet users into believing that it and the website to which it resolves have some legitimate commercial connection” with Tolkien and his beloved books.

The U.S.-based “JRR Token” developer responded that it was in fact referencing “a unique form of digital currency,” and not the legendary fantasy author. And it claimed that if the name “JRR Token” just happened to bring J.R.R. Tolkien to mind, then it was parody, and not a copyright infringement. “JRR” stands for “Journey through Risk to Reward,” the developer said, per the WIPO’s summary. 

But the Guardian reported that the WIPO’s arbitrator ruled in favor of the Tolkien estate, writing, “the respondent does not specify why the disputed domain name is humorous, funny or nail-biting, and not just a domain name chosen due to its similarities with the [Tolkien estate’s] trademarks to take commercial advantage of its evocation.” It also called this “a particularly flagrant case of infringement.”

The Tolkien estate has recovered the JRRToken.com domain name, and stopped the developer from operating under that name. The token’s Twitter account also appears to have been taken down. And the “JRR Token” developer has reportedly paid the Tolkien estate’s legal costs in the U.S. and the U.K.

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