Harry Potter defeats Tanja Grotter in Dutch court

Netherlands

The Amsterdam District Court has blocked publication in the Netherlands of a Russian children's book that author JK Rowling said was too similar to her Harry Potter books. The court issued an injunction, ruling that if released in the Netherlands, the story would violate registered copyrights and trademarks.

Dutch publisher Uitgeverij Byblos sought to publish and distribute 7,000 copies of Tanja Grotter and the Magic Bass by Dmitry Yemets, one million copies of which have been sold in Russia. These copies of the book were translated from the original Russian into Dutch. Rowling and Time Warner, the owner of the HARRY POTTER trademark, objected and sought an injunction, arguing that copyright in the Dutch version of Rowling's first book Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone and trademark rights in HARRY POTTER branded merchandise would be violated if publication and distribution were allowed.

In its defence, Uitgeverij Byblos argued that the character Tanja Grotter was meant to be a parody of Harry Potter.

The district court rejected Uitgeverij Byblos's defence and accepted the plaintiffs' arguments, ordering that the book shall not be published or sold in the Netherlands. With regard to the trademark infringement claim, the court stated that the HARRY POTTER mark is well known and the name 'Tanja Grotter' is both phonetically and visually similar. Thus, consumers would likely be confused as to the origin of the Russian book if it were to be published and sold in the Netherlands, and Time Warner's HARRY POTTER mark would be diluted.

Paul Steinhauser, Steinhauser Hoogenraad Advocaten, Amsterdam

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