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Posted: December 10, 2017

Claim for Misappropriation of Ideas Dismissed on Summary Judgment

On November 14, 2017 Justice Sherwood of the New York County Commercial Division issued a decision in Schroeder v. Cohen, 2017 NY Slip Op. 32463(U), dismissing a claim for misappropriation of ideas, explaining:

This cause of action for misappropriation of ideas requires proof of two elements: (1) a legal relationship between the parties in the form of a fiduciary relationship, an express contract, implied contract, or quasi contract; and (2) an idea that is novel and concrete. In accordance with the First Department’s determination, plaintiffs’ claim for idea misappropriation cannot extend to material in the public domain. It is plaintiffs’ burden to establish proof of novelty and courts apply a stringent test in determining whether an idea qualifies as novel. Novelty requires a showing of true innovation, not merely that a particular idea has not been used before.

Although plaintiffs claim that their ideas and concepts are novel, it is unclear what ideas were allegedly misappropriated by Cohen. In any event, plaintiffs cannot sustain a claim for idea misappropriation because they have not identified any ideas that are not in the public domain. For example, the use of infinite scroll was not invented by plaintiffs, was a common technique used by web developers, and was a feature that could be publicly seen on the Rendezvoo website. Further, plaintiffs cannot rely on a combination of public ideas to satisfy the novelty requirement, because a combination of pre-existing elements is not considered novel..

(Internal quotations and citations omitted) (emphasis added).

The law protects intellectual property in a number of ways, but that protection is not unlimited; indeed, as this decision shows, in some ways it can be very limited. We frequently litigate intellectual property claims, including trademark, copyright and trade secret claims. Contact Schlam Stone & Dolan partner John Lundin at jlundin@schlamstone.com if you or a client have questions about whether you have, or face, a claim for theft or infringement of intellectual property.

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