It seems that our prediction that a the Lord of the Rings– the ‘JRR Token’ themed cryptocurrency was intended for the Mount Doom fires was accurate – the World Intellectual Property Organization (or WIPO) said it violated a mark belonging to the author’s estate JRR Tolkien, and ordered that one of the projects in the Web Domains Project be transferred to that domain (via the Financial Time).
If you’re unfamiliar with JRR Token (not Tolkien), here’s the lore – it was a cryptocurrency project that attracted heavy inspiration from The Lord of the Rings. Its slogan was “The One Token That Rule Them All”, its website featured Tolkien-style images of hills and wizards, and there was even a promotional video featuring an actor from the movies doing puns on The Hobbit and claiming the token was going “to the moon”. He promised a bunch of financial features called “Tokenomics”, the actual details of which were annoyingly unclear by his (the Lord of the Rings-theme) white paper and website.
As many, many people had predicted, all of this was not going well with the famous litigation Tolkien Estate – it filed a complaint with WIPO August 7, the day after the tokens go on sale. The estate claimed that the project’s site, jrrtoken.com, infringed its trademarks and provided paragraphs of detailed explanations of how the website infringed The Lord of the Rings. Honestly, though, you can probably get the gist of it by just look at a web archive or a screenshot of it.
(Note: the project also had another site, thetokenofpower.com – based on the Wayback Machine archives, both sites appear to have had the same content, but only the first is mentioned in the WIPO article. sites no longer contains information about the token.)
In its defense, token lawyers attempted to argue that people would not confuse JRR Token with JRR Tolkien because Tolkien’s “L” and “I” are “conspicuously absent” from Token, and both sentences are pronounced differently. The answer also reads, in part:
JRR TOLKIEN is not very similar to JRR TOKEN. The first is a surname used as a trademark and the second is an English word meaning a form of digital currency.
Oddly enough, the PMOI panel (not to be confused with the Council of Elrond) was not convinced by these arguments, or by those who said it was meant to be a travesty – he said in his decision that the domain name was registered “in bad faith”, and that it “was selected for the sole purpose of creating a false association with” author JRR Tolkien. All the the Lord of the Rings The references and images on the token’s website also didn’t help the project, according to WIPO, or the fact that it was a commercial venture.
The panel also said that the developer’s alternative explanation that the “JRR” in “JRR Token” actually meant “Travel through risk to reward” was likely false, since the phrase did not appear to be used on the site. In his own words:
It is not clear to the Panel what “Travel through risk to reward” really means and why the term “travel” is relevant to the purchase of tokens.
“There is no doubt that the Respondent was aware of Tolkien’s works and set up a website to exchange fame for these works,” part of the PMOI decision reads.
According to The Guardian, Tolkien’s estate is now working to “remove any infringing online content” – and indeed, the token’s Twitter account, YouTube channel and websites appear to be gone. misquote The Fellowship of the Ringopening scene: One by one, JRR Token’s sites and social media accounts fell under international copyright law.
But, as they say, there are those who resisted.
Like The One Ring in Tolkien’s story, the token has survived in a way – in the form of an OpenSea collection. Sure there’s JRR Token NFT, and if you thought the main project was obviously biting LotR just wait until you feast on these (kind of like Gollum feasting on a live fish in this scene that I always hate to watch).
It is interesting to note that NFTs were not mentioned in the drafting of the WIPO dossier, although the timeline may give an idea. As previously reported, Tolkien’s estate filed their lawsuit in early August and the NFTs were not announced on the JRR Token website until between August 31 and September 11, according to captures by the Wayback Machine.
Watching the blockchain gives us even more precise timing – OpenSea shows that the NFTs were minted on August 31 and were either put up for sale or transferred to other accounts on September 1. By the way, this is exactly the same day that the PMOI report states that JRR Token filed its response to the complaint. I pray that one day I will be given the trust (but not the audacity) of the person who creates NFTs with characters from the Lord of the Rings while battling an infringement claim from Tolkien’s estate.
I’m not sure what will happen to the JRR Token NFT in the end, although I don’t imagine Tolkien’s domain will be happy if he finds out about them. As for the rest of the project, if I’m honest that’s about exactly what I expected. The Eye of Sauron may still be vigilant, but the Eye of The Tolkien Estate is even more vigilant – and no mere token can withstand the powers of the MEK.
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