How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site.
    Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Ash Your Own Question
Ash
Ash, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 10916
Experience:  Solicitor with 5+ years experience
75100385
Type Your Law Question Here...
Ash is online now

Re Copyright: We are a small company who provide furniture

Resolved Question:

Re Copyright: We are a small company who provide furniture and interior fit out services to Education, Healthcare, Commercial and Retail establishments. We have two recent instances where we believe our copyright may have been, or is in danger of being abused.
In the first instance we were requested by a school to provide ideas for fitted furniture for classroom and library activity. In response we invested several hours of design time and submitted drawings to the school for their consideration. Because parts of the works were being commissioned by the County Council, the head teacher passed on our drawings to the appropriate department and indicated that our solutions, as opposed to their solution, for these areas were her preferred option. We now understand that there is a potential that our drawings are to be used as the basis for the Council to copy in order to request tender submissions from other contractors. No charge was made for the designs but all of the drawings we submit display a clear copyright statement.
In the second instance we were engaged by a department in a local hospital to provide a range of furniture solutions. As part of this package we designed and produced a specific piece of furniture which to be used in rooms within the wards. We then commissioned and provided 18 of these items to serve this department. Following the success of the use of these we were requested to provide a price based upon the possible requirement for an additional 60 of these items to cover most of the remaining wards in the hospital, which we did. Following an internal meeting at the hospital, we now understand that they have decided to seek tenders.
In each of these instances we are up against large organisations and wonder if we have clear rights and what our next action and subsequent recourse might be.
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Ash replied 2 years ago.
Alex Watts :

Hello my name is ***** ***** I will help you with this.

Alex Watts :

For now please let me know whether you have written to the school/Council regarding your concerns please?

Customer:

Regarding the School incident, this is the second occasion on which this type of thing has happened. In the first instance, in February 2012 I complained to the Council. A council employee came to see me and they suggested that we could provide a tender for the reception desk which was just part of the work involved which we agreed to do, however despite the copied use of our designs in that instance the reception desk was purchased from another contractor.

Customer:

Because of this experience, when I knew that the same department of the council were dealing with the current project I raised the question with the Council official as to whether the ideas in our proposal would be protected from copying. His response was that we could not claim protection over our ideas and that in the instance of the school wanting our solution they would have the right to use these as the basis to invite tenders. There is some email correspondence.

Alex Watts :

Indeed. Have you complained to the Chief Officers office yet please?

Customer:

My complaint in 2012 was initially to the head of that department, I was then put in touch with the Surveyor in charge of Primary schools for the county. He came to see me and suggested that the only potential benefit was for us to allow for us to receive a tender request for the Reception Desk, despite our having submitted a design for the whole scheme for which we would have sub contracted the building elements. We accepted that, they used our ideas to put into their design and then our tender price was rejected, despite the fact that we were aware that the overall tender for the project exceeded our original quotation which had been submitted direct to the school. I let all this go as I anticipated that a challenge beyond that point would simply sour potential future relations with the council. However, when the instance looked as though it may be repeated, I again contacted the same surveyor to ask whether the same situation was likely to recur, his response was that I had no copyright over the ideas contained within our drawings.

Alex Watts :

Ok - what is it you want to achieve?

Customer:

I am somewhat more concerned about the hospital as I feel that if I have rights to protect the design of the furniture item we have supplied I would like to gently warn the relevant parties so that tender requests are either not requested or that we can come to some arrangement for recompense.

Alex Watts :

I understand

Customer:

Sorry, in regard to the school instance, I would like to establish our rights with the council so that they are unable to take the ideas we have produced and use them for tenders. On that basis any competition would be judged on the suitability, either of the Councils own proposal plus price against our Design and Price. In the instance that stands, any other tendering contractor is taking advantage of the time and investment we have invested into the project, which has to be reflected in the margin we add on to the cost of the items we supply.

Alex Watts :

Ok - you need to write to the Chief Officers office

Alex Watts :

They can investigate your complaint and are independent of the main department of the Council

Alex Watts :

They will consider your complaint then report back to you

Alex Watts :

If you are not satisfied you then need to write and set out your losses and request a payment for breach of copyright within 14 days or say you will go to Court within 14 days. You should make sure you send this recorded delivery and keep a copy.

Alex Watts :

If they do not pay you then you can issue proceedings in the County Court. You can either do this online at: www.moneyclaim.gov.uk or by completing form N1 http://hmctsformfinder.justice.gov.uk/courtfinder/forms/n001-eng.pdf and take it to your local County Court.

Alex Watts :

The Court will then issue a claim which a copy will be sent to the Defendant who will have a limited time to defend it, if not you can enter Judgment and enforce.

Alex Watts :

If the matter is defended it will be set down for a trial. If the claim is for £10,000 or less it will be a small claim and you will not need representation.

Alex Watts :

Can I clarify anything for you about this today please?

Customer:

Thanks Alex I understand that this is the instance with regard to the council. Is your advice the same as regards ***** *****? Am I in a position to protect our design (which is a "viewable" product) from the hospital obtaining quotations for further units and potentially obtaining supply from another?

Alex Watts :

Yes its the same.

Alex Watts :

Does that help?

Customer:

I think so, to clarify my thinking, I am inclined to contact the Matron at the Hospital with whom I have been dealing and suggest that obtaining tenders would be a breach of our copyright. She may then put me in touch with the person within the hospital who would be responsible for purchase for these items so that I can repeat the concern, does that seem like a logical first action prior to taking an "official line"? I just want to be sure of my ground before making any threats and potentially damaging future business relationship.

Alex Watts :

Indeed.

Alex Watts :

I would go through the complaints process before launching into any Court action

Customer:

Thanks Alex, I will follow your suggestions. Much appreciated

Ash and 2 other Law Specialists are ready to help you