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.

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I was wrong about Help to Buy - but I'm still glad it's gone

As a mortgage journalist in 2013, I was deeply sceptical of the guarantee scheme. 

If you just read the headlines about Help to Buy, you could be under the impression that Theresa May has just axed an important scheme for first-time buyers. If you're on the left, you might conclude that she is on a mission to make life worse for ordinary working people. If you just enjoy blue-on-blue action, it's a swipe at the Chancellor she sacked, George Osborne.

Except it's none of those things. Help to Buy mortgage guarantee scheme is a policy that actually worked pretty well - despite the concerns of financial journalists including me - and has served its purpose.

When Osborne first announced Help to Buy in 2013, it was controversial. Mortgage journalists, such as I was at the time, were still mopping up news from the financial crisis. We were still writing up reports about the toxic loan books that had brought the banks crashing down. The idea of the Government promising to bail out mortgage borrowers seemed the height of recklessness.

But the Government always intended Help to Buy mortgage guarantee to act as a stimulus, not a long-term solution. From the beginning, it had an end date - 31 December 2016. The idea was to encourage big banks to start lending again.

So far, the record of Help to Buy has been pretty good. A first-time buyer in 2013 with a 5 per cent deposit had 56 mortgage products to choose from - not much when you consider some of those products would have been ridiculously expensive or would come with many strings attached. By 2016, according to Moneyfacts, first-time buyers had 271 products to choose from, nearly a five-fold increase

Over the same period, financial regulators have introduced much tougher mortgage affordability rules. First-time buyers can be expected to be interrogated about their income, their little luxuries and how they would cope if interest rates rose (contrary to our expectations in 2013, the Bank of England base rate has actually fallen). 

A criticism that still rings true, however, is that the mortgage guarantee scheme only helps boost demand for properties, while doing nothing about the lack of housing supply. Unlike its sister scheme, the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, there is no incentive for property companies to build more homes. According to FullFact, there were just 112,000 homes being built in England and Wales in 2010. By 2015, that had increased, but only to a mere 149,000.

This lack of supply helps to prop up house prices - one of the factors making it so difficult to get on the housing ladder in the first place. In July, the average house price in England was £233,000. This means a first-time buyer with a 5 per cent deposit of £11,650 would still need to be earning nearly £50,000 to meet most mortgage affordability criteria. In other words, the Help to Buy mortgage guarantee is targeted squarely at the middle class.

The Government plans to maintain the Help to Buy equity loan scheme, which is restricted to new builds, and the Help to Buy ISA, which rewards savers at a time of low interest rates. As for Help to Buy mortgage guarantee, the scheme may be dead, but so long as high street banks are offering 95 per cent mortgages, its effects are still with us.