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Archaeologists banned from calling hominid group “Hobbits”

Because of their diminutive size, scientists and laypeople alike have gotten into the habit of referring to the ancient hominids Homo floresiensis as “Hobbits”. The hominids stood about 3 and a half feet tall, making them perfect hobbit size. But now the company that owns the film right to “The Hobbit” has demanded scientists stop calling them hobbits. Hobbits.

The Guardian reports that Dr Brent Alloway, associate professor at Victoria University, is planning a free lecture on Homo floresiensis by Mike Morwood and Thomas Sutikna, two of the archaeologists who discovered the species. But when Alloway approached the Saul Zaentz Company/Middle-earth Enterprises, which owns rights in the film, for permission to title the lecture, “The Other Hobbit,” their lawyer responded that ”it is not possible for our client to allow generic use of the trade mark HOBBIT.” The Tolkien Estate, which owns registered trademarks on the word “Hobbit” in several companies, was not approached.

On the one hand, I can see a company that has a trademark interest in the word “hobbit” worrying about that word becoming generic. And Alloway acknowledges that he organized the lecture specifically to coincide with the release of The Hobbit film and capitalize on the name. But Alloway and his fellow scientists are clearly using the word in a different market—scientific, rather than storytelling—and the very fact that they call it “The Other Hobbit” acknowledges Tolkien’s invention of the word.

Via


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