Breaking news: Willy the Wizard v Harry Potter to go to full trial

A case of throwing
the book at the claimant?
You won't find it on BAILII, but today's decision of Mr Justice Kitchin in in Paul Allen (trustee of Adrian Jacobd, deceased) v Bloomsbury Publishing and JK Rowling [2010] EWHC 2560 (Ch) (Chancery Division, England and Wales) is brought to you here by the IPKat himself as an act of kindness.

In short, it is alleged that JK Rowling infringed the copyright in Adrian Jacobs' Willy the Wizard in the course of writing Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.  JK Rowling and her publisher Bloomsbury deny that there has been any copying of all or a substantial part of Willy, claim that any similarity is superficial and assert that JK Rowling had no access to Willy either.  In this hearing the defendants sought summary judgment on the basis that the infringement claim could not possibly succed or, in the alternative, a conditional order that the case go to trial only if Allen, on behalf of Willy's deceased author, provides security for costs.

The Wizard and his backers may lose at trial -- and indeed Kitchin J expressed the view that it was improbable that the action would succeed -- but this was Willy's day of triumph.  The judge took the view that the infringement claim was not so weak as to be unarguable, inviting submissions as to the form that the conditional order should take.

The IPKat will of course be watching this action carefully.  If anyone is interested in writing a serious piece for JIPLP on the various allegations of copyright infringement made against Harry Potter around the world and how they've been dealt with, please email Jeremy here.
Breaking news: Willy the Wizard v Harry Potter to go to full trial Breaking news: Willy the Wizard v Harry Potter to go to full trial Reviewed by Jeremy on Thursday, October 14, 2010 Rating: 5


  1. If Kitchin J says that is not so weak as to be unarguable then that's saying something.

    But it seems to this reader that it's another look and feel argument doomed to fail. Bringing back memories of Mr Teabing :)

  2. Actually, what it does say is that Harry Potter is likely to emerge unscathed. Mr Justice Kitchin's comments in paragraphs 86 and 90, plus the fact that he said he's minded to make a costs order, seems to me to make it pretty clear that, quite apart from any of the other issues in dispute, the claim falls on the wrong side of the 'idea/expression' dichotomy and so the infringement claim is likely to fail. Lord Voldemort,eat your heart out.
    Laurie Kaye


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