Case Cracked


14 June, 2006

The Da Vinci Code has been everywhere recently. It has even reached the ears of the courts after two of the three authors of The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail, Baigent and Leigh, took Dan Brown's publishers to court claiming copyright infringement.

Baigent and Leighs argument was that Dan Brown had copied their central theme or the "architecture" of their work. The issue for the court to decide was whether the "central theme" claimed was in fact the central theme of the book and in turn whether it could be protected by copyright.

The court found that The Holy Blood and The Holy Grail did not have a central theme as contended by Baigent and Leigh. The court held the themes they alleged were in their book were an artificial creation working back from The Da Vinci Code.

Further it was held that even if a central theme could be determined it would be made up of facts and ideas too general or of too low a level of abstraction to be capable of protection by copyright law. The court effectively said that there was nothing original or creative enough to be protected by copyright.

This case confirmed the current position on copyright law: it is the way ideas are presented rather than the ideas themselves that can be protected and copyright protection is for the original element in work. The same could be true in other areas potentially affected by copyright such as computer software and advertising materials. Copyright protects against copying the visual presentation of works and then only if the copying is substantial. Copyright can be a valuable right worth defending but it is not always easy to do.

Protecting ideas, concepts and the look of objects needs more than copyright and using the right sort of intellectual property could mean that your intellectual property assets are better protected than Baigent and Leigh's.

Daniel Milnes

Tel 01254 222399 or email Daniel Milnes


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