Harry Potter


"U.S. Author Sues Potter Writer: Claims Characters 'Originated with Her'"

(Associated Press, March 16, 2000)


PHILADELPHIA (AP) -- An author is suing the writer and publishers of the Harry Potter books, claiming that plots and characters in the wildly popular children's series originated with her.
Three books about Harry Potter, a young orphaned wizard, have sold 19 million copies in the United States, and a fourth is due for release in July.
The author, J.K. Rowling of Scotland, has become a cult figure in her own right among the novels' readers. A movie based on the first book, ``Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone'' is in the works.
But Nancy K. Stouffer of Camp Hill argues in her federal lawsuit that ideas for the Potter series were lifted from her 1984 book ``The Legend of Rah and Muggles,'' which includes a character named Larry Potter.
``I think coincidences happen, but I still say if it looks like a duck and acts like a duck, it's a duck,'' said Stouffer, who also claims she owns the trademark to the word ``muggle.''
In Stouffer's book, muggles are little people who care for two orphaned boys who magically turn their dark homeland into a happy place. In Rowling's books, ``muggles'' is the word wizards use for humans.
Stouffer's book has a character named Lilly Potter; Rowling's books have a Lily Potter. The Stouffer book has characters identified as ``Keepers of the Gardens''; Rowling's books have a ``Keeper of the Keys.''
Stouffer filed the lawsuit in U.S. District Court on March 6 against Rowling and Scholastic Inc., the U.S. publisher of the Harry Potter books. Her lawsuit also names Time Warner Entertainment Co., which owns the film rights to two of Rowling's Potter books, and Mattel and Hasbro, which have licenses to create and market related merchandise.
Scholastic, Rowling and Time Warner filed their own lawsuit in November in New York, asking a judge to rule that the Harry Potter books do not violate Stouffer's trademark and copyright. That suit was filed after attempts by Stouffer to negotiate an out-of-court settlement apparently failed.
Stouffer's claims are ``completely meritless,'' said Judy Corman, a spokeswoman for Scholastic.
``Unfortunately, success often leads to frivolous claims, and we're confident the court will find in our favor,'' Corman said.
After its publication in 1984, Stouffer's book was sold mostly on the East Coast, in Giant supermarkets and Rite Aid drugstores. Stouffer believes Rowling may have come across it when she was on a work-study exchange in Baltimore in 1987 and 1988.