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Claim against Potter author doesn't fly with federal judge

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    NMU         NEW YORK         Copyrights & Trademarks         Oct 1, 2002    

Claim against Potter author doesn’t fly with federal judge

  • A struggle over “muggle” and Harry versus Larry ends in federal judge throwing out copyright suit against Harry Potter author and fining Pennsylvania author Nancy Stouffer $50,000 for falsifying evidence.

A federal judge Sept. 17 slapped Nancy Stouffer with a $50,000 sanction and dismissed her copyright suit against Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. The judge also ordered Stouffer to pay Rowling’s attorney fees and costs.

In a preemptive strike, Rowling, along with Scholastic Books, publisher of four Harry Potter novels in the United States, and Time Warner, holder of the cinema and licensing rights to Harry Potter, filed suit against Stouffer in New York

Stouffer claimed she had written children’s books in the 1980s featuring a boy named Larry Potter and tiny, hairless nuclear-holocaust survivors called “muggles.”

Rowling use of the term “muggle” to describe human characters with no magical powers.

Stouffer, a children’s book author, submitted modified advertisements, altered texts and forged invoices in an attempt to prove that J.K. Rowling, the author of the “Harry Potter” series copied her ideas, ruled federal judge Allen G. Schwartz in New York.

During the discovery phase of the trial, Stouffer submitted an advertisement for her “muggles,” which she claimed always bore a trademark symbol.

However, testimony at trial countered Stouffer’s claim, showing that the advertisement did not include the trademark.

Stouffer also modified texts in an attempt to prove Rowling took the character names “Harry Potter” and “Lily” (the name of Harry’s mother), from her book, Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly.

Ande Publishing Co. printed Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly before it went out of business in 1987, Stouffer claimed.

Attorneys representing Rowling and Scholastic Inc. were able to prove that a paragraph referring to “Larry Potter” in the book submitted as evidence by Stouffer was printed “using fonts that were not available until 1993.”

The judge wrote in a Sept. 17 decision: “The plaintiffs’ publication, distribution, and exploitation of the Harry Potter books does not violate any of Stouffer’s intellectual property rights.”

(Scholastic, Inc. v. Stouffer) LF

© 2002 The Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press

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