The JRR Tolkien Estate is suing the producers of The Lord of the Rings movies for over $80 million in damages, just a couple of weeks before Peter Jackson's latest movie The Hobbit hits cinemas worldwide. The Tolkien estate and the book's publishers HarperCollins accuse Warner Bros of breaching contractual obligations by sanctioning a range of LOTR themed merchandise such as slot machines.

The estate claims that a contract only allows Warner Bros to create tangible merchandise, such as "figures, tableware, stationary items, clothing and the like," and not electrical or digital merchandise. One item that has caused the greatest upset is a slot machine, with the estate believing the association between Tolkien and gambling has caused "irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works." Lawyers cite the outrage of diehard Tolkien fans over the casino gaming, quoting one particularly miffed individual as saying, "I actually feel angry about this ... this insults Tolkien" adding it is "a nasty, greedy, ugly act ... Whoever is responsible should be ashamed of themselves." The Tolkien estate first learnt of the slot machines through a spam email in September 2010. Warner Bros are yet comment on the lawsuit.

It's another headache for Peter Jackson and The Lord of the Rings makers, who have faced an unusual amount of bad publicity in recent weeks. On Monday, they were accused of mistreating animals on the set of The Hobbit.