The two authors of the non-fiction work The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail have sued Mr. Brown as well as Random House publishing for stealing the intellectual property contained in their book. They claim the accused have knowingly lifted the entire premise from their research and dropped it into the book in question.
I’m not a fan of either book or any of the authors. I believe the hype surrounding the Davinci Code is silly. Never mind that, this posting isn’t about whether either book is good or bad.
This trial brings into question the whole definition of copyright. Is copyright the legal protection of the idea contained in the text? Generally not, despite what the Holy Blood and the Holy Grail authors wish. Legal protection extends only to the precise text as it exists under the copyright banner. Copyright law is quite extensive and does vary from country to country, but it most certainly does not protect an idea alone.
Patents do not protect an idea either. Patents are legal protection for a specific implementation of an idea. I am an author of a patent and did much of the work with the lawyers to create the initial draft for submission. Precise yet broad is always the goal in writing such things, yet the patent only applies to a specific instance of using the idea.
These guys are simply looking to cash in. They should get bounced out of court and fined for abusing the legal system.