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Buzz around Harry Potter-themed bar could trigger IP issues

Originally published in

Toronto intellectual property lawyer John Simpson says the media buzz surrounding a local Harry Potter-influenced bar could potentially cause trademark and copyright woes for the bar's owners.

The Toronto Star reports a recently opened bar called The Lockhart — named after a professor in the famous series of wizard books — is attracting international media attention, including articles in Condé Nast Traveler, TIME and The Guardian.

The Toronto tapas and cocktails bar “gives a strong yet subtle nod to the famous Harry Potter books by author J.K. Rowling … but the owners insist it’s still just a cool bar with a wizarding vibe — partly because they want to avoid any messy legal issues,” the Star reports.

According to Simpson, principal of Shift Law, there may be some reason for the owners to be cautious, particularly due to the burgeoning media attention surrounding the bar.

“Ultimately in a trademark case, what others think of you, that’s what’s determinative — are they confused, are they making an association — whether you intended it or not,” Simpson tells the Star.

“You can’t say that ... it’s a very remote sort of reference when everyone who’s talking about you mentions Harry Potter,” he says. “You have some control over that, what others are saying.”

Co-owner Matt Rocks tells the newspaper he’s very aware of copyright issues.

“I’d like to stay away from that. I love J.K. Rowling too much to really step on her toes,” Rocks says, noting that the bar hasn’t heard from any lawyers representing the Harry Potter name and doubts the bar is on Rowling’s radar.

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