J.K. Rowling may have to defend herself in court against charges that she copied the work of another children's author when writing "Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire," the fourth of seven Potter novels.
A judge overseeing the plagiarism case in London's High Court said in a ruling on Thursday that the claims made by Paul Allen, trustee of the estate of the late writer Adrian Jacobs, were "improbable."
But David Kitchin also turned down an application by lawyers for Rowling and her British publisher Bloomsbury for an immediate judgment dismissing the case outright.
The judge is expected to order Allen to pay a sum of money to the court as a security against the costs of the case should it eventually go to trial. That "conditional order" will be made at a later hearing, possibly before the end of the year.
Legal experts say the costs of the case would be "substantial."
Bloomsbury denies allegations that Rowling copied "substantial parts" of "The Adventures of Willy the Wizard — No 1 Livid Land," written by Jacobs in 1987.
Jacobs' estate has said that the plot of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire copied elements of the plot of Willy the Wizard, including a wizard contest, and that the Potter series borrowed the idea of wizards travelling on trains.
Rowling's book, published in 2000, was the fourth installment of the hugely successful boy wizard Harry Potter series that has sold more than 400 million copies worldwide and been turned into a multi-billion-dollar film franchise.
According to his estate, Jacobs had sought the services of literary agent Christopher Little who later became Rowling's agent. Jacobs died "penniless" in a London hospice in 1997, it added. Bloomsbury said Rowling had never head of Jacob's book before the copyright claim was first made in 2004, almost seven years after the publication of the first book in the highly publicized Harry Potter series. Judge Kitchin said in his ruling that her evidence to that effect was "very powerful and Mr. Allen has no direct evidence with which to challenge it."
"Plainly these are disputes which I cannot resolve upon this application," he added, according to the Press Association. "But the evidence to which I have referred raises a real possibility that Mr. Little's account of events is simply not correct."
Allen claims Little was given copies of Jacobs' book, but the agent, who described Willy the Wizard as "an appalling book," said Jacobs had never done so.
Both Rowling and her publisher told the judge that behind the allegation "lies a consortium seeking to use this claim to extort a settlement from the defendants and sell more copies of Willy the Wizard on the back of the publicity it generates."