The Da Vinci Code author Dan Brown has been cleared in London's High Court of allegations he breached copyright and plagiarised the best-seller's plot.
Michael Baigent and Richard Leigh had insisted Brown ripped off their 1982 book The Holy Blood And The Holy Grail. The embittered writers had also sued Random House, the publisher of both books.
After the verdict, Brown said, "(This) shows that this claim was utterly without merit. I'm still astonished that these two authors chose to file their suit at all."
Brown had argued that Baigent and Leigh are two of many writers who have written about the theory that Jesus Christ didn't die on the cross, but lived to have children with Mary Magdalene, whose descendants live to this day.
But the judge, MR JUSTICE PETER SMITH, concluded Brown did use the earlier book to write certain parts of his best-seller but abstained from substantially copying their work.
A spokesperson for Random House books says, "(The verdict) ensures that novelists remain free to draw in ideas and historical research."
The ruling also ensures the release of director Ron Howard's movie adaptation of The Da Vinci Code, starring Tom Hanks and Audrey Tautou, due out in May (06).