"'Harry Potter' Author Goes to Court" (Copyright Dispute with Nancy Stouffer - Who Owns the Word "Muggles"?)
("Reuters", November 22, 1999)
|NEW YORK (Reuters) - British author J.K. Rowling, her U.S. publisher and the company that has movie rights to her phenomenally successful Harry Potter childrens' books asked a U.S. court on Monday to declare the books do not violate any trademarks or copyrights.
Rowling, along with U.S. publisher Scholastic Corp. (SCHL.O) and Time Warner Entertainment Co. LP (TWX.N) , filed suit in Manhattan Federal Court claiming that U.S. author Nancy Stouffer had threatened legal action against them for use of the ''Muggles'' name.
``Muggles'', Rowling's collective name for all humans without magical abilities in her series of books that feature child wizard Harry Potter, is also the name of Stouffer's mythical characters in her currently out-of-print stories for children, among them ``The Legend of Rah and Rah'' and ``The Muggles''. Time Warner Entertainment holds film rights to the first two books in the three-book series and Rowling has said that more Harry Potter adventures will be written. Publishing history was made in September when the three titles occupied the top three spots on the New York Times bestseller list.
Rowling, an Edinburgh mother and former teacher, wrote the books in a local coffee shop while her infant daughter napped.
In a brief phone interview from her office in Camp Hill, Pa., Stouffer said her publisher, small press Ande Publishing Co., was planning to reissue the Rah books but had put the project on hold.
``There is no way anyone can market two licensable characters at the same time,'' Stouffer said. ``My concern is protecting my intellectual property.''
Scholastic claims Stouffer has never produced evidence of her copyrights or copies of her stories with material she claims was infringed. She has contacted Scholastic several times, according to the plaintiffs, including a September 8 letter.
The letter, attached to the suit, said, ``I believe it is beneficial to both of us to keep this situation out of the press and the courtroom...If I do not hear from you by (September 13) I will assume that you do not wish to communicate with me in an amicable fashion.''
Scholastic is asking the courts for a declaratory judgement that the Muggles of Rowling fame do not infringe Stouffer's trademark or copyright and to permanently bar Stouffer from representing herself as the owner of Muggles trademarks and copyrights.