Imagine that someone creates a sport based on a description in a book and gives it the same name as it had in the book. They then decide that it would be better for their sport not to use somebody else’s trademark after all; in fact, they want to distance themselves altogether from both the book on which their sport (well, if you could call it their sport) was based and its author. In a situation like this, it’s fair to say that even if fact is not stranger than fiction, it’s certainly a lot more complicated.
The sport in question is quidditch, or rather quidditch for ordinary, non-magical people. But now quidditch no longer wishes to be known as quidditch and would also rather not be associated with J.K. Rowling, the writer who thought of it in the first place.
Quidditch is the favourite sport of Harry Potter and his school mates. They zoom around high in the sky, playing with three types of ball: quaffles, bludgers and the golden snitch. The game is won by the team that manages to catch the golden snitch. It sounds like fun, but obviously it’s not something that we simple muggles should try at home.
Two Americans from Vermont had other ideas though, and in 2005 they came up with a version of quidditch adapted for those of us unable to fly around on broomsticks. Players of US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch keep their feet firmly on the ground, although “each player must keep a broom between their legs at all times.”
The name Quidditch has been trademarked by Warner Bros, the studio that released the Harry Potter films. Now that both US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch want to expand, and maybe even become an Olympic sport, they are encountering a number of obstacles in relation to trademark law. Marketing, merchandising and sponsorship contracts are a lot more complicated if your name has already been trademarked by someone else.
What’s more, J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter books, has let it be known that she has never ‘endorsed or licensed’ either of the quidditch leagues. This sounds like a death blow, but not as far as the leagues are concerned. On the contrary, due to J.K. Rowling getting caught up in the transgender debate they are now keen to distance themselves from the writer who thought up both the sport and its name.
US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch are therefore in hot pursuit of a new name. Despite the fact that they are not allowed to use the trademark and do not want to be associated with its creator (and she, in turn, does not want to be associated with their muggle version) they are apparently keen to continue playing this highly unusual sport. It strikes us that if this were a work of fiction, it would be considered beyond belief.