A customer is considering using the word "Sauron" (The mythical all-seeing eye from Lord of the Rings) as PART of a company name, it fits extremely well with the purpose of the business.

I have been asked to start designing a logo and website, the use would include both text and a logo incorporating an eye.

I have seen this word used before, and is currently used in other contexts, including in other fictional works.

Is there any reason I cant do this? Would I be infringing any copyright / trademark / intellectual property rights?

  • 1
    Two excerpts from Wikipedia, one about Copyright: 'Typically, the duration of copyright is the whole life of the creator plus fifty to a hundred years from the creator's death[...]'; and J.R.R. Tolkien: 'Died: 2 September 1973'. Make of that what you will. – Vincent Dec 12 '14 at 15:45
  • Which country is the client in? – JohnB Dec 12 '14 at 16:32
  • You'd have no author's copyright issue with ancient mythical creatures of course: Greek/Norse/Roman etc. Still risk of collision with existing rights holders in specific countries/industries though. – e100 Jan 15 '15 at 16:51

According to TESS, Sauron is a registered trademark of:

The Saul Zaentz Company DBA Tolkien Enterprises CORPORATION DELAWARE 2600 Tenth Street Berkeley CALIFORNIA 94710

Saul Zaentz Company states on their website:

The Saul Zaentz Company owns all rights to its films, including DVD, Theatrical and Television.

For clip, still, screening licenses, and film distribution please contact: licensing@zaentz.com

Licensing inquiries related to The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit can be found at www.middleearth.com. Please visit that site for Licensing Procedures and Licensing Contacts.

You should instruct them to look http://www.middleearth.com/licensing_procedures.html and then decide if it's the route they still wish to take.

Keep in mind Popeye's Chicken which is long established is now being sued to stop using the name Popeye. Companies with well known characters in today's society are very agressive about protecting their property. I received a cease and desist letter for using a cartoon character name in a video game mod years ago.

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I am not a lawyer, but I would strongly advise against this. Either Tolkien's estate or Peter Jackson/Wingut Films/New Line Cinema could come after your client.

I would be interested to see what other works and contexts you've seen this word in, and whether it was a deliberate reference to Tolkien. Even so, one fictional character referencing another fictional character is worlds (ahem) away from using someone's fictional character without permission in your for-profit company name, logo, and branding.

Talk to a copyright lawyer and try to convince your client to be more original.

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You say Sauron "fits extremely well with the purpose of the business."

But surely it's the concept of a "mythical all-seeing eye", not the name itself, that's a good match?

I'd try moving the conversation in that direction, and forget about the name until you've kicked around a few related or semi-related concepts (e.g. Panopticon, telescope, eyeballs, Cyclops, Big Brother [George Orwell], etc).

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    Perhaps the company is intrinsically evil and bent on ruling the world -- or at least the Middle of the Earth? – usr2564301 Jan 15 '15 at 16:32

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