The estate of fantasy writer J.R.R Tolkien filed a lawsuit against the movie studio behind the Lord of the Rings films on Monday, accusing it of failing to pay a share of profits from the money-spinning trilogy of blockbusters.
Tolkien's estate and publishers HarperCollins were named as co-plaintiffs in the suit filed by the Tolkien Trust, a British-based charity, against Hollywood studio New Line Cinema in Los Angeles Superior Court.
Lawyers for the trust said New Line had failed to pay "even one penny" of money from profits generated by the three films, which have grossed nearly six billion dollars since 2001.
"I cannot imagine how on earth New Line will argue to a jury that these films could gross literally billions of dollars, and yet the creator's heirs, who are entitled to a share of gross receipts, don't get a penny," US-based lawyer Bonnie Eskenazi said in a statement.
Lawyers are seeking 150 million dollars in compensatory damages, punitive damages and the right to strip New Line of its right to make any further films based on Tolkien's work, including the The Hobbit.
Plans for two films based on The Hobbit were announced in December. A spokesman for New Line declined to comment.
The Tolkien trustees' Britain-based lawyer Steven Maier said meanwhile that the lawsuit was the last resort.
"The Tolkien trustees do not file lawsuits lightly, and have tried unsuccessfully to resolve their claims out of court," Maier said. "But in this case, New Line has left them no option at all."
As well as failing to pay the plaintiffs a cut of the profits from the films, New Line had blocked a audit of the last two films in the series, 2002's The Two Towers and 2003's Oscar-winning The Return of the King.
"The trustees are very aggrieved by New Line's arrogance," Maier added.