Over the weekend the New
Apr 02, 2001
Over the weekend the New York Times printed an article about the Nancy Stouffer vs. J.K. Rowling row regarding Rowling’s supposed “rip off” of Stouffer’s books. While the article doesn’t seem to cover Rowling’s side of the story (ie no remarks from Rowling, her lawyers, Scholastic etc), the article does present some interesting point’s I’ve been making since this whole issue started:
Mrs. Stouffer’s lawyers do not contend that Ms. Rowling plagiarized the term “muggles.” The use of the term antedates both authors – it was slang for marijuana and appeared in a Louis Armstrong song, among other places. And Mrs. Stouffer’s “muggles” were short, hairless, quasihuman mutants, but Ms. Rowling’s are just regular people who lack magical powers.
Instead, Mrs. Stouffer’s lawyers argue the phenomenal popularity of Ms. Rowling’s books will interfere with her ability to sell her own “muggles” merchandise. In court papers, Ms. Stouffer’s lawyers say she has tried for years to sell magnets, pajamas and other paraphernalia based on her own “muggles” at trade shows and elsewhere. But now the term “muggle” has become a hallmark of Ms. Rowling’s books. Mrs. Stouffer’s lawyers claim Ms. Rowling has effectively ruined Mrs. Stouffer’s trademark.
This is odd. can Stouffer even sue on this basis? So Rowling’s use of Muggles happened to be more popular than Stouffer…so she has been unable to sell any products under that name. Has anyone bothered to note that Stouffer applied for her trademark of Muggle and Muggles long after she began her lawsuit against Rowling. She doesn’t even have trademark registration numbers assigned to them yet!
She registered her trademark for the first time last year.
OK, I lied. One small line. But I don’t think it makes a strong enough point.
Her new publisher is making as much as it can out of the resemblance between Mrs. Stouffer’s books and Ms. Rowling’s. The cover of Mrs. Stouffer’s book “The Legend of Rah and the Muggles” previously depicted her miniature mutants, with the word “muggles” in small print. This time, the word “Muggles” appears in large type against the backdrop of a castle reminiscent of the one on Mrs. Rowling’s books. Her character Larry Potter previously played a supporting role in a series of magazine-size booklets starring his cousin, Lilly. But now he is front and center on the cover of Mrs. Stouffer’s new hardcover book, “Larry Potter and His Best Friend Lilly.”
And the author’s name has been changed, too, from “Nancy Stouffer” to “N. K. Stouffer.”
Ahhh. So we’re not the only people who noticed it. Her books have been out of print for almost a decade and she decides she needs to make some money and get herself back out on the market. Why not a lawsuit? Unbelievable – and disgusting what some people will do. If Stouffer’s books came even remotely close to being well-written then she wouldn’t find the need to file a lawsuit just to bring attention to herself.