Adaptions, computer code and copyright

An adaption in copyright is the exclusive right of the owner of the work in question.  Section 10 of the Copyright Act 1968 (Cth) (Act) defines adaption as it relates to literary works in dramatic and non-dramatic forms, in a computer program and in relation to a musical work.   The rights that apply to adaptions in different separate classes of literary works differ according to the respective category in question. [Read more…]

Know-how versus confidential information

In an article entitled “is your confidential information really confidential” we discussed what is and isn’t confidential information and how this term is nearly always misused.  This article discusses a category of confidential information known as “know-how” and what rights employers have over it. [Read more…]

Copyright, code libraries and ownership

In Australia, copyright automatically vests in certain types of literary works, including computer programs and artistic works, upon their creation.  The general rule is that the owner of copyright in a literary or artistic work is the author of that work.[1]  An exception to this rule arises if the work is made by an employee pursuant to the terms of their employment.  In this case, the employer owns the copyright subsisting in the employee-generated work.  However, the distinction of whether an employee has created the work pursuant to the terms of employment, is not always clear.  This issue was considered in the case of Redrock Holdings Pty Ltd and Hotline Communications Ltd v Hinkley [2001] VSC 91 (Redrock). [Read more…]

Compilations from the public domain – confidential or not?

In the case of Ezystay Systems Pty Ltd v Link 2 Pty Ltd [2014] NSWSC 180 (Ezystay) it was held that the plaintiff’s business manuals were confidential despite having been compiled from the documents in “public domain”.  On Appeal, the Court had to re-visit the test for confidential information to determine whether or not the respondents’ software, business manuals and other documents collated from the public domain were in fact capable of being protected as confidential information.

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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…]

Software litigation – how much evidence is enough?

Litigation involving software commonly involves allegations of copyright infringement and breaches of contractual obligations of confidence.  However, without an “anton pillar” style order, it can be challenging to substantiate the extent of any alleged breach due to the technological nuances involved with properly analysing available evidence.   This make it difficult for the plaintiff to decide whether or not to initiate legal proceedings against an infringing party.  In circumstances where a prospective applicant does not have complete access to the source code, it may be desirable to make an application for discovery prior to the start of proceedings pursuant to Rule 7.23 of the Federal Court Rules 2011 (Cth) (Rules). [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…]

Use of a competitor’s confidential information

Many businesses try to increase market share by employing a competitor’s member of staff who may bring with them relationships and information acquired over the years.  Employees owe fiduciary duties to their employers meaning, among other things, that an employee cannot make a personal gain by using confidential information acquired in the course of their employment.  If an employee makes a personal gain by using their employer’s confidential information, the employer may be entitled to an account of profits, meaning the employee must pay the employer the amount of profit made as a result of the breach. [Read more…]

Disputing ownership of a patent – joint inventors

The Patents Act 1990 (Cth) (Act) provides the framework for patent registration and regulation in Australia. [Read more…]

Is the use of a trade mark in AdWords an infringement?

The concept of ‘Googling’ has become a part of everyday life.  But does anyone ever stop to think how Google results are collated?  In the case of Veda Advantage Limited v Malouf Group Enterprises Pty Limited [2016] FCA 255 (Veda Advantage case) one company did just that, and they were not happy with the answer.  The case concerned the use of registered trade marks as keywords and in the title tags and descriptions of sponsored link advertising in the Google AdWords program. [Read more…]

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