Arianna Huffington heads to court over allegations that she stole the idea for the HuffPo

Huffington Post: "there is no merit to these allegations"

On Thursday a New York judge refused, for the second time, to throw out a case accusing Arianna Huffington of having stolen the idea for the Huffington Post.

The case, which began in 2011, accuses Huffington and her co-founder Ken Lerer of having begun the process of launching the site on the urging of two Democratic advisers, Peter Daou and James Boyce, in 2004, before dropping them and launching the site on their own the year after.

Daou claims he circulated a memo about a “new kind of Democratic news-reporting website and blogging ‘ring’ or collective” which was then stolen by Huffington. New York law only allows people to sue over ideas which are "novel and concrete", and much of the case, if it ever reaches trial, is likely to concentrate on that.

The last eighteen months have been occupied with procedural wrangling, but on Thursday, the court accepted an amended complaint from Daou and Boyce allowing them to proceed to trial with not only the idea theft accusation, but also charges of fraud and unjust enrichment.

PaidContent's Jeff John Roberts explains:

Today’s ruling does not mean that Daou and Boyce have won the case. Instead, it means they have cleared a crucial procedural hearing and, thanks to the added claims, can proceed to a trial with a stronger hand.

The Huffington Post's statement on the matter is calm:

The court has made only a preliminary decision based solely on the uncontradicted allegations of the complaint and without any consideration of the proven facts. As we have said from day 1, there is no merit to these allegations. They are make believe. With this ruling, we will now be able to move for summary judgment and lay out the actual evidence in this case. We look forward to the opportunity to present the full record to the court.

The full case notes can be read here.

Photograph: Getty Images

Alex Hern is a technology reporter for the Guardian. He was formerly staff writer at the New Statesman. You should follow Alex on Twitter.

Photo: Getty Images
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The buck doesn't stop with Grant Shapps - and probably shouldn't stop with Lord Feldman, either

The question of "who knew what, and when?" shouldn't stop with the Conservative peer.

If Grant Shapps’ enforced resignation as a minister was intended to draw a line under the Mark Clarke affair, it has had the reverse effect. Attention is now shifting to Lord Feldman, who was joint chair during Shapps’  tenure at the top of CCHQ.  It is not just the allegations of sexual harrassment, bullying, and extortion against Mark Clarke, but the question of who knew what, and when.

Although Shapps’ resignation letter says that “the buck” stops with him, his allies are privately furious at his de facto sacking, and they are pointing the finger at Feldman. They point out that not only was Feldman the senior partner on paper, but when the rewards for the unexpected election victory were handed out, it was Feldman who was held up as the key man, while Shapps was given what they see as a relatively lowly position in the Department for International Development.  Yet Feldman is still in post while Shapps was effectively forced out by David Cameron. Once again, says one, “the PM’s mates are protected, the rest of us shafted”.

As Simon Walters reports in this morning’s Mail on Sunday, the focus is turning onto Feldman, while Paul Goodman, the editor of the influential grassroots website ConservativeHome has piled further pressure on the peer by calling for him to go.

But even Feldman’s resignation is unlikely to be the end of the matter. Although the scope of the allegations against Clarke were unknown to many, questions about his behaviour were widespread, and fears about the conduct of elections in the party’s youth wing are also longstanding. Shortly after the 2010 election, Conservative student activists told me they’d cheered when Sadiq Khan defeated Clarke in Tooting, while a group of Conservative staffers were said to be part of the “Six per cent club” – they wanted a swing big enough for a Tory majority, but too small for Clarke to win his seat. The viciousness of Conservative Future’s internal elections is sufficiently well-known, meanwhile, to be a repeated refrain among defenders of the notoriously opaque democratic process in Labour Students, with supporters of a one member one vote system asked if they would risk elections as vicious as those in their Tory equivalent.

Just as it seems unlikely that Feldman remained ignorant of allegations against Clarke if Shapps knew, it feels untenable to argue that Clarke’s defeat could be cheered by both student Conservatives and Tory staffers and the unpleasantness of the party’s internal election sufficiently well-known by its opponents, without coming across the desk of Conservative politicians above even the chair of CCHQ’s paygrade.

Stephen Bush is editor of the Staggers, the New Statesman’s political blog.