Commercial Law

My client poached my software developers – what can I do?

Imagine this – it’s taken you almost a decade, you’ve created a successful software development business with many happy long-term clients, a stable team and a great reputation.  More recently you’ve even created a funky new millennial style brand!  One day an employee resigns and the next week another one resigns.   The following week your biggest client breaks their long-term engagement with you and then another one of your team resigns!   You get suspicious, do some investigations and discover the former employees are working in-house for your ex-client!

It is not uncommon for clients (Clients) of professional service businesses (Service Provider) to poach the employees of the Service Provider.  The software development sector is a prime example where this occurs. [Read more…]

Force majeure in a major pandemic

To say the world has been turned upside down is all but literally true in many respects.  Where there is the slightest sneeze of Covid-19, governments have made shut down decisions that that have impacted the ability of businesses to operate and perform their contractual obligations.

A feverous question is whether COVID-19 an event of force majeure and does it relieve the affected party from its obligations?  Below we set out the issues. [Read more…]

IP contracts now subject to restrictive trade practice provisions

Agreements providing for the conditional licensing or assignment of intellectual property (IP) rights are now subject to the restrictive trade practice provisions of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (CCA).  On 13 September 2019 section 51(3) of the CCA was been repealed removing the exception which applied to the licensing and assignment of IP.   This means commercial transactions involving the assignment of IP rights will be subject to the anti-competitive prohibitions, as are other transactions involving property. [Read more…]

Has my software been copied? – the legal test

There is an urban myth that something can be copied and changed by 20% or so and then there is no copyright infringement.   Rightly or wrongly this is simply untrue.  In the case of IPC Global Pty Ltd v Pavetest Pty Ltd (No 3) [2017] FCA 82 (IPC Global), a former employee of the applicant copied source code and passed it to a developer.  It was subsequently alleged that in doing so, the respondent had breached a contractual obligation of confidence and had also breached the applicant’s copyright. [Read more…]

Termination for incomplete construction work

The recent decision in Hopper & Anor v Queensland Building and Construction Commission & Anor (No 2) [2019] 212 illustrates that parties to residential construction contracts need to be very careful when purporting to terminate a residential building work contract because of incomplete works. [Read more…]

Workplace Bullying by a Body Corporate

Section 789FA of the Fair Work Act 2009 (the FWA) enables a worker who has been bullied at work to apply to the Fair Work Commission (FWC) for an order to stop the bullying.  For the purposes of the FWA, reasonable management action taken in a reasonable way will not constitute workplace bullying.

A body corporate rarely directly employs workers.  Usually, an onsite care-taking service contractor is engaged (typically a company) to perform on-site duties such as grounds maintenance and the like, those duties normally being discharged by the company’s directors or employees engaged by the company. [Read more…]

Notice requirements under a commercial lease

Commercial leases often contain an option for a further term and normally have strict notice requirements about how to exercise the option.  What could go wrong if a lessee fails to comply with the option notice requirements? [Read more…]

De-encryption Bill currently before Joint Committee

The much awaited Telecommunications and other Legislation Amendment (Assistance And Access) De-encryption Bill 2018 (De-encryption Bill) has been referred to the Parliamentary Joint Committee on Intelligence and Security (Joint Committee).  The Joint Committee has allowed three (3) weeks for submissions.  It is a very short time-frame for submissions considering the controversial nature of the Bill.  Submissions close on 12 October 2018 and a hearing will then be held by the Joint Committee one (1) week later.  The De-encryption De-encryption Bill (if passed) amends the Telecommunications Act 1997(Cth) (and various other acts) and has the stated aim of “establishing frameworks for voluntary and mandatory industry assistance to law enforcement and intelligence agencies in relation to encryption technologies via the issuance of technical assistance requests, technical assistance notices and technical capability notices….” [Read more…]

Restraint of trade clauses in commercial contracts

A restraint of trade occurs where one party (Covenantor) agrees with another party (Covenantee) to restrict their liberty in the future to carry on trade with other persons who are not parties to the contract see: Petrofina (Gt Britain) Ltd v Martin [1966] Ch 146 at 180.

Restraints of trade clauses are prima facie void, however, the presumption can be rebutted if the restraint is justified because it is reasonable in the circumstances.    Note that there is a significant divide between restraints in commercial contracts and those in employment contract with the latter being widely accepted as only being enforceable for a far shorter period of time. [Read more…]

The legal relationship of agency

The importance of establishing whether a legal relationship of agency exists, and if so, to what extent, can be critical when ascertaining whether a person had authority to enter into an agreement on behalf of another person or entity.  The precise legal nature of the relationship may be important to the parties if either are attempting to enforce their rights under an agreement between them. [Read more…]

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