NEW YORK (Reuters) - Two Democratic political consultants may proceed with their suit alleging that The Huffington Post’s founders stole their idea for the news website, a New York judge has ruled.
The attorneys for co-founders Arianna Huffington and Kenneth Lerer and TheHuffingtonPost.com had asked the court to dismiss the complaint filed by the consultants, Peter Daou and James Boyce, who alleged that the defendants broke their promise to work with them to create the site.
During Tuesday’s oral argument, Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Charles Ramos allowed the counts alleging idea misappropriation and breach of contract to continue, but did not rule on the six remaining causes of action. Ramos also said the parties could proceed with discovery.
Despite the ruling, a spokesman for the AOL Huffington Post Media Group said they expect to prevail in the end.
AOL purchased Huffington Post for $315 million in a deal announced in February.
Daou and Boyce filed suit last November, claiming that after weeks of meetings, conversations, and emails in 2004, “Huffington and Lerer breached their obligations to Peter and James, excluded them from the venture, and claimed credit for the ideas and contributions to the site that Peter and James had given them.”
In November 2004, according to the complaint, Boyce gave Huffington a memorandum titled “1460,” reflecting the number of days between presidential elections. Daou and Boyce both worked on Senator John Kerry’s presidential campaign in 2004.
The lawsuit says that memo was the basis of Boyce’s presentation at Huffington’s home on December 3, 2004, and put forward “a specific combination of elements that have always been central and signature elements of the Huffington Post.”
The next day, Boyce, Daou and Lerer joined Huffington for a breakfast at her home, the complaint alleges, and they “all shook hands and Huffington said: ‘It will be great to work together.'”
In the motion to dismiss, Huffington’s lawyers said the plaintiffs were far from having reached a deal with the defendants.
“Plaintiffs’ claim that their idea was the basis for The Huffington Post is conclusively refuted by the 1460 Memorandum and the website itself,” the motion says.
The case is Peter Daou et al v. Arianna Huffington et al, New York Supreme Court, No. 651997-2011.
Editing by Eric Beech