P brought action for alleged misappropriation of an idea, which he had submitted to Dunham, the VP of one of D's departments.
Idea was for Jell-O to be marketed to children and be named "Wiggley" or some variation of the word "wiggle" including "Mr. Wiggle."
D informed P that it had no interest in promoting his suggestion in March 1965.
D began working on a children's gelatin product three months later, which is when D says employees came up with the "Mr. Wiggle" idea and marketed it.
Dunham said she personally had no knowledge of the idea, and that the matter had been handled by an assistant and that no one from any of D's departments ever asked to see the files containing the ideas.
D submitted evidence of a proposed TV commercial in 1959 that used the word "wiggles" to describe Jell-O, as well as a copy of a 1960 newspaper advertisement that also used a variation of "wiggle."
D argues that they already had independently created and developed the idea before P submitted it to them.
P moved for partial summary judgment on the question of liability and D cross-moved for summary judgment dismissing the complaint. Lower court denied both motions.
Appellate division affirmed.
NY COA held for D, ordered summary judgment dismissing complaint.
Was the idea suggested by P original or novel?
When is one obligated to compensate another for an idea?
The idea suggested by P was neither original nor novel and D was free to make use of "Mr. Wiggle" without being obligated to compensate P because D was relying on its own previous experience in coming up with the idea.
When one submits an idea to another, no promise to pay for its use may be implied if the elements of novelty and originality are absent, since the property right in an idea is based upon these two elements.
An idea may be a property right.
But, when one submits an idea to another, no promise to pay for its use may be implied if the elements of novelty and originality are absent.
P could not recover for his idea if it was not original and had been used before.
In this case, the record establishes that the idea submitted was descriptive of the most obvious characteristic of Jell-O and was lacking in novelty and originality. In addition, D had envisaged the idea, and had already utilized it, years before the P submitted it.
It was natural for D to use "Mr. Wiggle" to combat Pillsbury's entry into the children's market with its "Jiggly."