Three weeks after a British court passed judgment in the copyright case involving Dan Brown's bestseller "The Da Vinci Code," a lawyer has uncovered what may be a secret message buried in the text of the ruling.
Lawyer Dan Tench noticed some letters in the judgment had been italicized, and it suddenly dawned on him that they spelled a phrase that included the name of the judge: "Smith code."
Justice Peter Smith, who during the trial displayed a sense of humor unusual in the rarified world of bewigged barristers and ancient tradition, appears to have embraced the mysterious world of codes and conspiracy that run through the novel.
"I thought it was a mistake, that there were some stray letters that had been italicized because the word processor had gone wrong," Tench told Reuters.
Tench initially told The Times newspaper that apparently random letters in the judge's ruling appeared in italics. Wouldn't it be clever if the judge had embedded a secret message in the text? The Times ran a jokey item.
"And then I got an e-mail from the judge," said Tench.
He said Smith told him to look back at the first paragraphs. The italicized letters scattered throughout the judgment spell out: "smithcodeJaeiextostpsacgreamqwfkadpmqz."
Those in the first paragraphs spell out "smith code."
But what does the rest mean?
The novel, and upcoming movie starring Tom Hanks, are about a secret code that reveals ancient mysteries about Jesus Christ.
Smith, who ruled that author Brown had not plagiarized his hugely popular thriller from another book, "The Holy Blood and the Holy Grail," has so far not given any clues to his own mystery code.
For now, the judge is not speaking. His clerk said he is refusing interviews. She would not confirm whether there truly was a secret mystery embedded in his judgment.
But she did confirm that he is, generally speaking, a humorous type of person.