It was, perhaps, inevitable that Homo floresiensis, the three-foot-tall species of primitive human discovered on the Indonesian island of Flores, would come to be widely known as "hobbits". After all, like JRR Tolkien's creation, they were "a little people, about half our height". But a New Zealand scientist planning an event about the species has been banned from describing the ancient people as "hobbits" by the company which owns the film rights to The Hobbit.
Dr Brent Alloway, associate professor at Victoria University, is planning a free lecture next month at which two of the archaeologists involved in the discovery of Homo floresiensis in 2003, Professor Mike Morwood and Thomas Sutikna, will speak about the species. The talk is planned to coincide with the premiere of The Hobbit film, and Alloway had planned to call the lecture "The Other Hobbit", as Homo floresiensis is commonly known.
But when he approached the Saul Zaentz Company/Middle-earth Enterprises, which owns certain rights in The Hobbit, he was told by their lawyer that "it is not possible for our client to allow generic use of the trade mark HOBBIT."His first mistake was asking in the first place - I doubt these guys are patrolling the halls of academe for trademark infringement. Or then again, maybe they are. At any rate, the talk title was changed to "A newly discovered species of Little People – unravelling the legend behind Homo floresiensis." "Little people" still has a pleasantly Tolkeinian ring to it, I suppose.
The Tolkein Estate was uninvolved in this particular bit of mean-spiritedness.