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Warner Brothers, which owns the rights to the Harry Potter franchise, claimed that the name of the film was too close to the name of the title character in Rowling’s novels and their wildly popular film versions. The makers of the Puttar film argued that the name was merely coincidental– “Hari” is a popular Indian name, while “Puttar” is Hindi for “son.” Warner Brothers reacted to the decision in a statement on Monday, saying:
We brought these proceedings because we believe that the proposed title and marketing of the defendants’ film infringed our intellectual property rights and unfairly sought to confuse consumers and benefit from the well-known and well-loved ‘Harry Potter’ brand. As a content company, it is imperative that we continue to protect our valuable intellectual property rights in this property, and we will now be reviewing the judgment and considering our options.
The court ruled that readers of the Harry Potter books would be able to easily differentiate between the Punjabi Hari and the boy wizard Harry. Hari is a ten-year-old boy who moves to England and becomes involved in a plot reminiscent of Home Alone in which he is left alone with a friend and must save his father’s software chip from would-be burglars. Harry is a young wizard who must save the world from the powerful, evil wizard Voldemort. The Delhi court seems to think that even the youngest of Harry Potter fans can tell the difference.
The court also admonished Warner Brothers for waiting so long to file suit after Mirchi Movies launched the Hari Puttar project in 2005. Mirchi originally planned to air the movies on September 12 in India, but that release date was pushed back to this Friday, September 26, due to the lawsuit. The movie will be released globally sometime next month. Meanwhile, the next installment of the Harry Potter movies–Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince–is set to be released in the summer of 2009.
This case was a good try by Warner Brothers. After all, Harry Potter, as one of the most lucrative franchises of all time, is something worth protecting. But perhaps their time would be better served going after legitimate copyright threats. The similarity between the two stories in this case starts and ends with the name of the title character. Although Mirchi Movies most likely did hope to, and most likely will, capitalize on the similarity between the names, even the least sophisticated of Harry Potter aficionados are unlikely to be truly confused. Warner Brothers has most likely simply stirred up a lot of publicity over a movie that probably would not have been so newsworthy otherwise.
– Jamie Lynn Kern
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