The actor Stephen Fry has accused movie copyright moguls of "bullying" in a row over a Hampshire pub called The Hobbit.
The pub, which boasts Tolkienesque decor and serves cocktails with names like Gandalf, Bilbo and Frodo, has been given until the end of May to change its name and remove all references to The Hobbit or face an expensive lawsuit.
Fry, who is in New Zealand shooting the two Hobbit films with director Sir Peter Jackson, was asked to support the Southampton pub's fight to keep its identity by organisers of a Facebook campaign.
In reply, the star tweeted to his thousands of followers on Twitter: "Honestly, @savethehobbit, sometimes I'm ashamed of the business I'm in. What pointless, self-defeating bullying."
His involvement quickly sent the pub's Facebook campaign soaring to more than 13,000 followers.
The cease-and-desist order comes from Middle-earth Enterprises, a division of the California-based Saul Zaentz Company, which owns worldwide merchandising rights to the Lord of the Rings trilogy and The Hobbit.
Stella Roberts, 41, the landlady, said: "The pub has been called The Hobbit for more than 20 years and it has never been a problem.
"I believe the decision to target us now was prompted by the release of the film.
"We have been told that absolutely everything to do with the Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit must go," she said.
"We just haven't got the resources to fight it."
Angry locals have dubbed the battle "hobbits versus orcs", in reference to a celebrated scene from the Lords of The Rings trilogy.
The US company's website says: "Middle-earth Enterprises owns exclusive worldwide rights to motion picture, merchandising, stage and other rights in certain literary works of JRR Tolkien, including The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
"We have produced and licensed films, stage productions and merchandise based on these Tolkien works for more than 35 years."
A spokesman for Edward Wildman Group solicitors, who are acting on behalf of The Saul Zaentz Company, said their clients would not be commenting.
The first of The Hobbit films, a prequel to Jackson's Oscar-winning Lord of the Rings trilogy, is due for release in December.
Fry plays the Master of Laketown.