In just a little over a week The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey will have its world premiere in Wellington, New Zealand. The occasion has not slowed down the many problems that the Tolkien Estate has had with Warner Bros and movie rights holder Saul Zaentz Company. The two sides have been in legal hell on and off for over a decade now with each side winning and losing their share of battles. They once again enter into battle with yet another lawsuit.
The latest is over a breach of contract over how Warner Bros has chosen to take advantage of the Tolkien's world for the digital age. The source of the anger is due to the online gambling game "The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: Online Slot Game" that apparently WB signed off with plans to produce regular LOTR slot machines for casinos. The Tolkien Estate is suing to prevent to take down the Slot Game, prevent the gambling machines from moving forward, and prevent WB from using their merchandising rights in areas the original 1969 contract did not cover such as hotels, restaurants, ringtones, online games, and more. The $80 million is to cover how the "infringing conduct has outraged Tolkien's devoted fan base, causing irreparable harm to Tolkien's legacy and reputation and the valuable goodwill generated by his works."
Hard to say how this will be handled but chances are this will be eventually settled with a hefty payout and alteration of the existing contract. Considering how much the Tolkien Estate and remaining family seems to genuinely hate the films (they prefer a literal book to film translation, which trust me would be an awful thing), don't take this to mean that somehow WB might get further rights to Tolkien's other Middle-Earth works.