'Potter' Case To Be Decided in NYC

Wednesday, August 16th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

NEW YORK (AP) — A dispute between the creators of the popular Harry Potter children's book series and a Pennsylvania woman who says she owns the rights to the ``Muggles'' trademarks will be decided in Manhattan, a judge has ruled.

The decision filed Monday by U.S. District Judge Allen G. Schwartz was a legal victory for the book's author, J.K. Rowling, the book series' publisher, Scholastic Inc., as well as Time Warner Entertainment Co., which owns film and merchandising rights.

Schwartz declined to dismiss the lawsuit brought by Rowling, who lives in Edinburgh, Scotland, and the companies against Nancy Stouffer of Camp Hill, Pa. They sought a court declaration that they have not infringed on any of Stouffer's copyrights.

A lawyer for Rowling, Scholastic and Time Warner referred questions in the case to Scholastic, which forwarded a statement issued in late March saying that Stouffer's ownership claims to the word ``muggles'' were absurd.

``Ms. Rowling's creative mind works in a world filled with myths and legends, but let there be no doubt that these books are her unique creations. Unfortunately, nowadays, success seems to breed not only imitation but also litigation,'' the statement said.

The statement said the ``muggles'' in a book Stouffer published in the mid-1980s entitled ``The Legend of Rah and the Muggles'' were tiny and hairless creatures who live on the continent of Aura in a post-nuclear holocaust world set hundreds of years in the future.

``Anyone even vaguely familiar with the Harry Potter books, and the use of the term `Muggle' to describe any person who does not have magical powers, will recognize the absurdity of Ms. Stouffer's claims,'' the statement said.

Stouffer initially responded to the lawsuit with one of her own, filed in Philadelphia, and sought to have the Manhattan lawsuit thrown out or transferred to Pennsylvania.

But Schwartz ruled that Stouffer, by having her own books published and asserting her claims against the Harry Potter books, had engaged in enough business in New York City to cause the case to be litigated there.

Kevin Casey, a lawyer for Stouffer, said he was unlikely to appeal Schwartz's ruling because he was eager to prove the similarities between the Harry Potter books and the creations of Stouffer.

``I'm very happy the judge has ruled one way or the other because now we can get on to the substance of this thing,'' he said.