Is it time for quidditch to ditch its name and distance itself from the wizarding world of Harry Potter? US Quidditch and Major League Quidditch say it is, and have entered into the formal process of choosing a new moniker.
According to information carried on both organizations’ sites, the move came about because of a combination of factors.
Not the least of these, of course, are the extensive legal ramifications surrounding the use of the name. Information on the website notes, “As the game has grown, the name “quidditch”, which is trademarked by Warner Bros., has limited the sport’s expansion, including but not limited to sponsorship and broadcast opportunities.”
It is no secret – even among those who have not read the books – that J.K. Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter book series, as well as her publishers, have been vigilant about protecting the intellectual property rights of the work. US Quidditch for example, carries disclaimer language on each page of its website:
USQ and its activities are not licensed by, sponsored by or associated with Warner Bros., J.K. Rowling, or their affiliates. "Quidditch", "Harry Potter", and all related names, characters and indicia are trademarks of and © Warner Bros. - Harry Potter publishing rights © J.K. Rowling. (Note: MLQ also carries similar verbiage).
“I believe quidditch is at a turning point,” said USQ Executive Director Mary Kimball in the announcement carried on the organization’s website. “We can continue the status quo and stay relatively small, or we can make big moves and really propel this sport forward into its next phase. Renaming the sport opens up so many more revenue opportunities for both organizations, which is crucial to expansion. Through joint ownership of this new trademark, USQ and MLQ will be able to pursue sponsorships, broadcasting on major TV networks and other projects that'll address some of the biggest barriers to playing the sport, like access to equipment,”
This was not a decision that was made in haste, either, according to the website information.
“For the last year or so, both leagues have been quietly collecting research to prepare for the move and been in extensive discussions with each other and trademark lawyers regarding how we can work together to make the name change as seamless as possible,” read a quote from MLQ Commissioner Amanda Dallas in the same announcement.
In fact, IPR was such a concern of Rowling and her publishers that utmost secrecy surrounded the books prior to their release and lawsuits ensued when reviewers violated an embargo and published their information earlier than the official embargo date. (It is an unrelated example but it should provide an idea of how strict the rules are – including those pertaining to the use of the name of the sport).
Another problem, according to USQ and MLQ, is Rowling’s outspoken stance against trans athletes. And because USQ and MLQ pride themselves on diversity, equality and inclusion (to the point of having a special section devoted to it in the USQ website as well as in the MLQ website) as well as anti-harassment policies – it’s easy to see why this has rubbed the sport itself the wrong way.
“Our sport has developed a reputation as one of the most progressive sports in the world on gender equality and inclusivity, in part thanks to its gender maximum rule, which stipulates that a team may not have more than four players of the same gender on the field at a time. Both organizations feel it is imperative to live up to this reputation in all aspects of their operations and believe this move is a step in that direction,” noted the website.
So – what’s the name going to be? And when is this all going to happen?
Nothing has been announced yet, although the site notes, “The date of the final reveal of the name is pending conversations with our legal teams.”
Both organizations cooperated on a survey that allowed interested individuals to voice their sentiments about the forthcoming name change, as well as to weigh in on a variety of names.Users could provide input on what they saw as the sport’s image, given a list of new potential names; all names begin with the letter Q, intended to help retain the history of quidditch while pursuing a new beginning.
One advantage of selecting a name beginning with a Q is that both leagues will be able to retain their acronyms. USQ will be overhauling its branding. However, MLQ will only undergo a soft rebrand, with minor changes such as brand style and website upgrades, according to the website article.
Names under consideration are as follows:
Obviously, the earthbound (translation: in real life) game differs from that mentioned in the Harry Potter books, where it is played on the air by athletes who ride flying broomsticks. (The rules of the field game are explained here). USQ did not respond to questions of whether the positions held by players on the field (coined by Rowling) such as Beater, Chaser, Keeper and Seeker and Snitch, would remain in the game, or whether those names would change as well.
Quidditch was invented in 2005 when Xander Manshel and Alex Benepe adapted the sport for field play at Middlebury College in Vermont. Benepe, the article notes, is in favor of the name change.
“I'm thrilled that USQ and MLQ are moving in this direction,” he is quoted as saying. “Big changes like this don't come without risk, but I've been a strong advocate for making this move for a long time. The sport needs its own space without limits on its growth potential and changing the name is crucial to achieving that.”
USQ is the national governing organization while MLQ is a league operating in the U.S. and Canada. The international governing body for the sport, International Quidditch Association (IQA) has remained noncommittal on the subject of the name change, only noting they while they are concerned about Rowling's anti-diversity rhetoric, they continue to monitor the situation and would not make a name change without consulting with all national federations in the sport.