The jurist deciding her federal case can't deal with Harry Potter's strange names

By Caris Davis and Stephen M. Silverman
Updated April 18, 2008 01:20 PM

One fan J.K. Rowling can’t count on: Manhattan Judge Robert Patterson Jr., who will spend the next several weeks deciding her federal copyright infringement case over an unauthorized Harry Potter lexicon.

During Thursday’s final day of testimony, the jurist, admitting he read the half of the first book, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, to his grandchildren, said he found Rowling’s work difficult to follow, filled with strange names and, well, such “gibberish” that it possibly required a guidebook.

“I found it extremely complex,” he told the courtroom, reports London’s The Times. “The difficulty I have here is this magical world. I couldn’t remember the characters and lots of the terms.”

Rowling, 42, is seeking to stop publication of a $24.95 encyclopedia by school librarian Steven Vander Ark about the boy wizard she created. Claiming he copied her plots, characters and spells – thereby infringing her copyright – Rowling advised Vander Ark to rethink his book – without using her words.

Small Peace Offering

As the final rebuttal witness to take the stand, Rowling said, according to The New York Times, “I never ever once wanted to stop Mr. Vander Ark from doing his own guide – never ever. Do your book, but please, change it so it does not take as much of my work.”

The judge, meanwhile, has advised Rowling, Vander Ark and the prospective book’s publisher to resolve their problems on their own, rather than drag them through the legal system and face several years’ worth of possible appeals.

“This case is in a murky state of the law,” said Patterson. “I think this case, with imagination, could settle.”