AUTHOR JK Rowling has been personally drawn into a court battle over claims that she plagiarised parts of an earlier children's book for Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
Her publishers, Bloomsbury Plc, were hit with a lawsuit in June last year by the estate of the late children's writer Adrian Jacobs.
It alleges that Rowling personally copied a substantial part of Mr Jacobs' novel The Adventures of Willy The Wizard – No 1 Livid Land, published in 1987.
Now the lawsuit has been changed to include Ms Rowling in a personal capacity.
Last night, Ms Rowling, who is being sued under her married name of Joanne Kathleen Murray, rejected the claims, describing them as "absurd".
The Edinburgh-based author added: "I am saddened that yet another claim has been made that I have taken material from another source to write Harry. The fact is I had never heard of the author or the book before the first accusation by those connected to the author's estate in 2004; I have certainly never read the book."
Ms Rowling said she and her publishers would be applying to have the claim dismissed as being without merit.
"The claims that are made are not only unfounded but absurd and I am disappointed that I, and my UK publisher Bloomsbury, are put in a position to have to defend ourselves."
It had been previously thought that a time bar on proceedings prevented Ms Rowling being sued personally. But the lawyer representing the estate of Mr Jacobs said that a "legal cause of action against her" had been found.
The trustee of the estate of Adrian Jacobs, Paul Allen, said: "The estate, which acts independently of Adrian Jacobs family, has been in correspondence with lawyers for Rowling and her publishers for several years but have been repeatedly rebuffed.
"We have taken expert legal advice and we believe we have very strong case. We have only joined JK Rowling, now Mrs Murray, to our lawsuit against Bloomsbury after discovering legal cause of action against her within the last six years."
The core of the estate's accusations rely on plot similarities. In both books, a boy wizard competes in a magic contest and, the lawsuit also notes, both have boys trying to rescue human hostages held by half-human creatures from a bathroom. References to a wizard train and a wizard prison also form part of the allegations.
Mr Allen said that the case, which is being heard in the High Court in England, was about "upholding our legal copyright and seeking proper compensation" and asking for the "breach of copyright to be stopped".
He added that they were also taking legal advice as to whether the Harry Potter films and a proposed theme park breached their copyright.
Mr Jacobs was left bankrupt following the stock market crash of 1991 and died in 1997.