Delhi court hears 'Hari Puttar' defense

Attorney says 'phonetic similarity' doesn't violate copyright

NEW DELHI -- What's in a name? Not all that much, the producers of "Hari Puttar: A Comedy of Terrors" argued Friday in the Delhi High Court.

Mumbai-based Mirchi Movies counsel told Judge Reva Khetrapal that Warner Bros.' copyright infringement suit here is essentially a case of judging a book by its cover.

In his deposition, Arun Jaitley -- a well-known Indian politician and attorney -- argued that the "phonetic similarity" between the Bollywood title and Warner Bros.' "Harry Potter" fails to constitute a copyright violation, arguing that one needs to "look at the spelling, pronunciation, context, language and relevance of words in (the) language."

"Puttar" means "son" in Punjabi, and the Indian film's main character is a boy named Hari Prasad Dhoonda, whom the father refers to as Hari Puttar.

Just "because somebody may mispronounce 'Hari Puttar' as 'Harry Potter' or even 'Jaikishan' (a common Hindu name) as 'Jackson,' that alone cannot be cause for legal action," Jaitley said, who pointed out that the word "Puttar" was used several times in Gurinder Chadha's "Bend It Like Beckham."

Warner Bros. first sent a legal notice to Mirchi in 2005 when "Hari Puttar" was announced and filed its lawsuit Aug. 28, but Jaitely said that "if Warner had asked us to change the title back in 2005, we would have done so." "Puttar" is due to be released Sept. 19.

In explaining the film's dissimilarity to J.K Rowling's best-selling books, Jaitley said that the story is about a boy "who has to safeguard a special software chip invented by his father that is being sought by two villains."

Later in the hearing, Judge Reva Khetrapal was shown trailers of "Hari Puttar," prompting him to remark, "This looks quite similar to 'Home Alone.' "

The next hearing is slated for Monday. Warner is being represented by New Delhi-based counsel Anand & Anand.