Arnold & Porter joins quest to clear Da Vinci Code author of plagiarism

Arnold & Porter and London firm Orchard Solicitors will face each other this week in the High Court as litigation over Dan Brown’s best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code kicks off.

The case sees Brown accused of plagiarism, which could affect the May release of the forthcoming Hollywood movie based on the book and which stars Tom Hanks and Sir Ian McKellen in the lead roles.

Orchard partner Paul Sutton is acting for two authors, Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh, who claim that Brown copied substantial material from their 1982 book The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail. Like The Da Vinci Code, Baigent’s and Leigh’s work deals with the history surrounding the mythology of the quest for the Holy Grail.

Baigent and Leigh allege that Brown not only lifted a proportion of material from their book, but also that he embedded his novel in the context of their work.

The trial follows a preliminary hearing on liability that took place in October 2005. It is set down for two weeks. As The Lawyer went to press, a judge had not yet been assigned.

Sutton has instructed Hogarth Chambers IP and media specialist Jonathan Rayner James QC as lead counsel. Rayner James replaced Richard Spearman QC of 4-5 Gray’s Inn Square following possible diary clashes.

Arnold & Porter London-based litigation partner Ian Kirby is acting for The Da Vinci Code’s publisher Random House, instructing 8 New Square’s John Baldwin QC.