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Businesslinx Secures Copyright Victory

» Posted by: Tony Catterall
» Service area: Intellectual Property

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Darwen software house Businesslinx Limited and its MD, Mark Hargreaves have successfully beaten off a claim by their customer, Clearsprings (Management) Limited to ownership of a major software package designed by Businesslinx for Clearsprings.

The CMIS system was written by Businesslinx over a period of four years and at a cost exceeding £1.1million. It is an innovative, web based management system used for the allocation of housing and other facilities offered by the government to asylum seekers.

In its claim, Clearsprings alleged that it was entitled to ownership of the CMIS system and that it had the right to sell or licence it on to third parties without Businesslinx’ consent.

By his judgment handed down on 14 July 2005, Deputy Judge Christopher Floyd QC held that Clearsprings had a non-exclusive licence under the copyright in the CMIS system but no right of ownership nor any right to sub-licence. The Judge also ordered that Clearsprings pay an immediate contribution towards Businesslinx’ costs of £90,000, with the balance to be assessed.

Mark Hargreaves said: “This is a classic story of David taking on Goliath and winning. I am delighted that the Judge has supported the line we have taken throughout this case – in accordance with the advice of our solicitors Taylors - that we at Businesslinx are the owners of the copyright in the software notwithstanding it was commissioned by Clearsprings. We now look forward to developing the business opportunities presented by this judgment”.

Businesslinx and Mark Hargreaves were advised throughout by the Intellectual Property team at Taylors and Head of IP Mr Tony Catterall said:

“I am very pleased that Taylors has once again taken on the London intellectual property establishment and come out on top. Businesslinx was put under heavy financial pressure in this case, which went from inception to trial in three months, and it is a tribute to Mark Hargreaves that he kept his nerve. This judgment reinforces the point that software houses and their clients should give careful thought to the ownership of copyright in commissioned works. This starting point remains that the contractor is entitled to retain copyright unless there is an express agreement or the terms of the deal are such that an assignment must be implied”.

Click here to see the judgement (PDF )
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