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Wednesday, 6 October 2004

HUMAN RIGHTS ACT DOESN'T CREATE RIGHTS IN IDEAS, RULES COURT

LexisNexis' All England Direct subscription service noted this case two days ago: it's Anya v Wu and others, a Chancery Division decision of Mr Justice Lewison. Anya wrote two scientific papers and signed agreements by which he assigned copyright to the the publisher of each of them. He later sued the defendants, alleging that scientific papers published by them had exploited his work and infringed his moral right to be identified as an author under s.77 of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988. The defendants successfully applied to strike out his claim on the ground that he was neither the author nor a joint author of the defendants’ papers, the court holding that the ideas underlying Anya’s papers were not copyright works within the terms of the 1988 Act. Anya then brought a new claim, alleging that he retained copyright in the papers and that his property rights under the Human Rights Act 1998 had been violated. The defendants applied to strike out this claim on the ground that it disclosed no cause of action and that the new claim was an abuse of process.

Mr Justice Lewison allowed the application and struck out the fresh claim. The effect of the agreements had been to transfer copyright to the publishers of the papers. There was no other property right in the papers, either under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act or under the Human Rights Act. Further, Anya had already had previous opportunities to persuade a judge of the merits of his case and it would be unjust to allow a third attempt.

The IPKat concurs with the court's decision. There is no inherent property right in an idea and it would be monstrous if the Human Rights Act could be manipulated in order to restrict the use or circulation of ideas by creating property rights where commercial and economic legislation had clearly refused to do so.

Another failed claim for idea theft here
How do I protect my idea? Click here and here
Not my idea here

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