Misappropriation Law Law & Legal Definition


Misappropriation is the intentional, illegal use of the property, ideas, or funds of another person for one's own use or other unauthorized purpose, especially by a public official, a trustee of a trust, an executor or administrator of a dead person's estate or by any person with a fiduciary duty to care for and protect another's assets. It is a felony, punishable by a prison sentence

Idea misappropriation is a court created concept that will allow an author who pitches an idea or story to bring a claim for relief if their idea is appropriated or used without permission. Until recently, there have been no real definitive elements used by the courts that will allow authors the ability to effectively pursue an idea misappropriation claim. One of the most famous idea misappropriation cases involved Eddie Murphy and the movie "Coming to America." In 1992, columnist Art Buchwald and producer Alain Berheim were awarded almost a million dollars when a judge ruled that they were not compensated by Paramount for their screenplay work on Murphy's 1988 hit film

Idea misappropriation and copyright infringement are different concepts with their own elements of proof. The required elements of proof for an idea misappropriation case are;

  1. is the story idea original;
  2. did the author actually submit the idea (oral or written);
  3. was the idea understood to be for sale;
  4. was the idea misappropriated;
  5. actual damages.

These required elements of proof vary from jurisdiction.