Wizard of an idea fails to ring true

JRR Tolkien slays cryptocurrency website that planned to trade as JRR Token

A website set up to promote a cryptocurrency called JRR Token has been forced to surrender its domain name to the estate of JRR Tolkien, author of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Tolkien’s beneficiaries filed a complaint with WIPO, the World Intellectual Property Organization, whose arbitration and mediation centre resolves domain name disputes. The estate owns trade marks including J R R TOLKIEN — as well as a suitably ancient website that can be reached from jrrtolkien.com

A ruling issued by the WIPO arbitration centre in September says that the disputed domain name was registered in February on behalf of Matthew Jensen, from Florida. At that time, the domain name jrrtoken.com linked to a website called thetokenofpower.com

That website included images of wizards — including one who looked like Gandalf from The Hobbit — and others related to Tolkien’s works. It included the slogan “The One Token That Rules Them All”.

Jensen claimed that this was merely a parody of Tolkien’s well-known “one ring to rule them all”. He said an alternative domain name — jrrcrypto.com — had already been taken by a Swiss fin-tech group called JRR.1 And he said he had chosen the disputed domain name because “JRR” stands for “Journey through Risk to Reward”.

The arbitrator, a “sole panelist” who refers to himself as “the panel”, was pretty sniffy about this assertion:

The panel does not believe that the respondent [Jensen] selected the letters JRR for the reason he states, and it does not appear that the website at the disputed domain name uses the term “Journey through Risk to Reward”… It is not clear to the panel what “Journey through Risk to Reward” actually means, and why the term “journey” is relevant to the purchase of tokens.

Jensen argued that “J R R TOLKIEN is not confusingly similar to JRR TOKEN. The former is a surname used as a trademark and the latter is an English word meaning a form of digital currency”.

He also relied on a case from 2003 in which the clothing store Abercrombie & Fitch had failed to block a website called aberzombie.com.

But the arbitrator held that the domain name jrrtoken.com “was selected for the sole purpose of creating a false association” with Tolkien. He required the domain to be transferred to the author’s estate. It is now parked with a brand protection company.

Jenson’s other domain — thetokenofpower.com — has been moved to an unused WordPress page. A Twitter account called @thetokenofpower seems to have been closed recently. It is not known whether any tokens were ever sold.

The estate’s solicitor, Steven Maier, said it was “vigilant in preventing unauthorised parties from taking advantage of the JRR Tolkien name and the content of JRR Tolkien’s literary works”.

A public relations firm said in a statement released today that the estate had “obtained the developer’s undertaking to cease all operations under the offending name and delete the infringing content from all relevant websites and social media accounts”. Jensen had also paid the estate’s US and UK legal costs.

More of a Gollum than a wizard, then.

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Nothing to do with me, although JRR are my initials.