Law School Case Brief
Blackmon v. Iverson - 324 F. Supp. 2d 602 (E.D. Pa. 2003)
A threshold requirement for an idea misappropriation claim under Pennsylvania law is that the plaintiff's idea be novel and concrete. Novelty and concreteness are required so that the court can identify the idea as having been created by one party and stolen by another. Denying recovery for the use of ideas that are not novel properly confines protection to those ideas that are truly valuable to society. An idea is novel and merits protection when it is truly innovative, inventive, and new. An idea is not novel if it is merely a clever version or variation of already existing ideas.
Plaintiff Jamil Blackmon filed a lawsuit in federal district court against defendant Allen Iverson, a famous basketball player, alleging causes of action for idea misappropriation, breach of contract and quantum meruit (unjust enrichment). The allegations arose from Iverson's use of "The Answer," both as a nickname and as a logo or slogan. Blackmon, who describes himself as Iverson's "surrogate father," alleged that he came up with the idea that Iverson use "The Answer" as a nickname, and that Iverson promised that he would pay Blackmon 25 percent of the proceeds from the sale of merchandise using "The Answer." Iverson filed a motion to dismiss the complaint.
Was Blackmon's claim of idea misappropriation meritorious?
The court granted Iverson's motion to dismiss. The court observed that, from the facts alleged by Blackmon, the disclosure of the nickname idea occurred before Iverson told Blackmon that he was going to use the idea in connection with the shoe contract in 1996, and before the sales of goods bearing "The Answer" actually began in 1997. Thus, the court ruled, regardless of whether the contract was formed in 1994, 1996, or 1997, the disclosure of "The Answer" idea had already occurred and was, therefore, past consideration insufficient to create a binding contract. The court further held that in the absence of novelty and concreteness, Blackmon could not show that Iverson was unjustly enriched, reasoning that Iverson had only received an idea that he was already free to use. Finally, there was no idea misappropriation where neither the shoe company nor Iverson was in competition with Blackmon.
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