The $80 million legal battle between Warner Bros and the Saul Zaentz Company and the estate of The Lord Of The Rings author J.R.R. Tolkien over copyright and digital merchandising just took another turn – this time against some of the lawyers. The studio and its partner in this case this week filed a motion to have Fourth Age’s lawyers Greenberg Glusker Fields Claman & Machtinger LLP disqualified from the case. “Warner and Zaentz bring this motion to disqualify Greenberg as counsel of record for the Tolkien/HC Parties in this litigation and for other relief, because the firm impermissibly gained access to privileged information in violation of Rules of Professional Conduct,” said the motion filed yesterday in federal court. WB and Zaentz have asked for a hearing on July 7 for Judge Audrey Collinsto to rule on their motion (read it here).
The other side says this is all a smokescreen. “There is absolutely no basis for the motion filed by WB and Zaentz yesterday,” said Greenberg attorney Bonnie Eskenazi today. “Greenberg Glusker acted properly in all respects at all times. The motion was filed for purely and transparently tactical and strategic reasons. We look forward to the Court vindicating our position.” The filing comes just over two weeks after the court denied a motion by Zarntz seeking to get a review of a document it wanted clawbacked. That ruling allowed the third-party business proposal paperwork with its reference to “tangibility” in the margins to be included in the case. It is non-tangible merchandising, such as online slot machines and other digital merchandising, that makes up the heart of the Tolkien estate’s case. While a partner in the firm, heavyweight Hollywood lawyer Bert Fields is not directly involved in this case. (more…)