SW Legal studies in Business

Claim that Harry Potter Infringed on Preexisting Work Found Fraudulent
Description Trial court held that the author of the Harry Potter series of books did not infringe on the copyright or trademark claims of an earlier author who used the term "muggles" that appears in the Potter books. Sanctions were imposed on the earlier author who falsified evidence to support her claim of infringement.
Topic Intellectual Property
Key Words Infringement; Confusion; Fraud; Sanctions
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts J. K. Rowling is the author of the Harry Potter series of books. She owns all copyrights and trademarks associated with the series, which was first published in1997. In 1986, Stouffer and some friends started a publishing company that wished to publish a series of children's books. Stouffer advertised the expected product but, getting no buyers, only produced one story booklet. The booklet tells the story of creatures called "Muggles." Stouffer contended that Rowling infringed on her copyright and trademark of Muggles. She also contended that she developed a storyline for a character called Larry Potter. Rowling and her publisher moved in federal court for a declaration of non-infringement.
Decision

Motion granted. Stouffer's Muggles were not sufficiently similar to Rowling's work to cause consumer confusion as to the source of the work. Similarly, Stouffer's trademark claim over the term Muggles was not sufficient to warrant protection; there were never commercial sales of the product, just an effort that was not successful. Sanctions of $50,000 against Stouffer are granted to Rowling due to the falsification of evidence in the claims Stouffer made. The false evidence included forged invoices of sales, altered contracts, altered trademark claims, and other falsehoods.

Citation Scholastic, Inc. v. Stouffer, --- F.Supp.2d --- (2002 WL 31093616, S.D. N.Y., 2002)

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