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A bitter fight over who came up with the idea for The Huffington Post (s AOL) is set to go trial after a judge sided with two Democratic consultants over Arianna Huffington in a key ruling.
After a hearing on Tuesday, as reported by Law 360 (paywall), New York judge Charles Ramos refused to side with Huffington as a matter of law, and said the dispute over the Huffington Post’s founding was a question of fact to be decided at trial.
This means that a jury is likely to hear the story of Peter Daou and James Boyce, former advisors to Presidential candidate John Kerry, who claim that they came up with the idea for a liberal news aggregator to counterbalance the influence of the conservative Drudge Report. In their lawsuit, filed in 2010, they say Huffington and her business partner, Ken Lerer, blatantly stole their detailed plan to build the website. Huffington sold her site to AOL for $315 million in 2011 and is now president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media Group.
A Huffington Post spokesperson declined an email request for comment about Tuesday’s ruling. Partha Chattoraj, the attorney for Daou and Boyce, said by phone that the judge has scheduled a pre-trial conference for March 11, but declined to offer further comment.
Daou and Boyce won an initial victory in 2011 when Ramos refused to dismiss a claim based on a little-known New York state law that allows people to sue for misappropriation of an idea. In a 2013 ruling, the judge reinstated additional claims for fraud and unjust enrichment.
Although Huffington is appealing the earlier procedural rulings, Ramos’s decision on Tuesday means that the trial could go forward in the meantime, and require her to take the witness stand.
This story was corrected at 4:05ET to note the original lawsuit was filed in 2010, not 2011.