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Downey v. Gen. Foods Corp. - 31 N.Y.2d 56, 334 N.Y.S.2d 874, 286 N.E.2d 257 (1972)

Rule:

An idea may be a property right. But, when one submits an idea to another, no promise to pay for its use may be implied, and no asserted agreement enforced, if the elements of novelty and originality are absent, since the property right in an idea is based upon these two elements.

Facts:

 An airline pilot brought an action against defendant to recover damages for the alleged misappropriation of an idea. It was his claim that he suggested the name of defendant's own gelatin product, that the product be directed towards the children's market. Plaintiff also claimed that although defendant disclaimed interest in the suggestion, it later offered its product for sale under a suggested name. Defendant alleged that plaintiff's alleged product concept and name was independently created and developed by it. Plaintiff moved for partial summary judgment on the question of liability on five of its 14 causes of action, and defendant cross-moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. The supreme court denied both motions, and the appellate division affirmed. Both parties appealed.

Issue:

Was the courts order denying both motions proper?

Answer:

No

Conclusion:

The court of appeals reversed, holding the defendant's motion should have been granted because the idea suggested by plaintiff was neither original nor novel. The case was remitted to special term.

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