A BAND which saw chart success in the 1970s have been told they will not be able to reform under their original name of Bilbo Baggins – because Hollywood execs fear it will confuse fans of blockbuster film The Hobbit.
The band’s former manager, Henry Spurway, was taken to court by the California-based Saul Zaentz Company (SZC) for copyright infringement after they discovered he was attempting to create a new version of the Capital-based group.
The Intellectual Property Office has now ruled in SZC’s favour and told Spurway he cannot register the name because it is “too similar” to that of the iconic Hobbit character, played by Martin Freeman in the recent film.
But Colin Chisholm, the former lead singer of Bilbo Baggins has described the legal action taken by SZC as “like using a mallet to squash a fly”.
However, the 60-year-old, who recently appeared as a contestant on BBC One’s The Voice, where he caught the attention of pop legend Sir Tom Jones, says it won’t stop him attempting to get the band back together for some comeback shows in their hometown.
Colin, who lives in the south of the city, said: “While I personally wasn’t involved in Henry’s project this ruling seems ridiculous. There was never any problem with us using the name back in the 70s and the books had already been out for quite a while then.”
He added: “There’s been a lot of very positive reaction to my appearance on The Voice and plenty of old Bilbo fans have been coming out of the woodwork saying they’d love to see us again. If Hollywood want to get their lawyers involved with that then they are welcome to come ahead, but in my opinion it’s completely heavy-handed, like using a mallet to squash a fly.”
Former guitarist Brian Spence has also called the ruling “daft.” And if the band, who previously sold out venues across Scotland and even appeared on Top Of The Pops, are looking for any more legal advice they can look no further than former drummer Gordon Liddle, who went on to study law and is now better known in Edinburgh as Sheriff Gordon Liddle.
In her ruling on Mr Spurway’s case, IPO hearing officer Ann Corbett said the band had not achieved enough success for people to distinguish them from the Tolkein character.
She said: “Whilst there is no dispute that the band existed, the evidence shows this band to have been relatively short-lived. The band broke up in 1979 with debts of some £100k. The evidence does not show the band was successful or well known.”
Mr Spurway was also ordered to pay SZC £1200 in costs.