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JGM, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 12067
Experience:  30 years as a practising solicitor.
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I would like to ask a question. In the case of software

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I would like to ask a question.
In the case of software written for a commission, if the commission is not paid yet the commissioner is selling the software does the copyright remain with the author and can an infringement of copyright be argued?

Hello, my name is***** am a qualified lawyer and I will be assisting you with your question today.

Please can you tell me a bit more about the situation so that I can advise. Thank you

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
A client requested a quotation for the design of a circuit board and a small piece of software, sufficient to make the board generate control signals and to communicate with a host computer by means of a specified protocol used in the industry. They would then write the software that processed the data that had been transferred to my board and display images on an array of LEDs. The intention was to mimic units the client was purchasing from china. The price I submitted was based on a fee and a royalty on every sale and an order was placed with the value of the royalty to be agreed. Subsequently the client decided that their software engineer was too busy to write their part of the project so I undertook that too but no written order was placed for this extra work, I had assumed that the royalty would reflect the extra work. Along the way other features and protocols were added to the list of features I wrote the software for and there was further hardware design. No order was placed for the additional hardware and software. I was aware that sales were being made in part because I had done a small number of specific customisations for particular end customers but I was not told numbers. Various discussions were had and at one meeting I was told there was no margin in the product to pay a royalty but they were willing to pay a token royalty, which was significantly below what I was expecting considering the effort involved and ignored the cost they would have incurred if their own software engineer had written the program. I was paid fees for the specific customisations only. To date I have received none of the fees of the original order and no royalty payments. Sales numbers have been reported to me but I know these are incomplete and I have been told that I will not receive payment until I provide documentation to a certain level. When I was told that I raised some invoices to give me some leverage prior to delivering the documentation because once that is handed over I have no more cards to play, suffice it to say the invoices have not been paid. I have had multiple meetings, telephone conversations and exchanged e-mails which have resolved nothing and each side has become more entrenched. I have invested substantial time and money in developing this hardware and software and have received no payment. The threat of court action has had no impact on me being paid. The sums involved are of the order of £30,000, and the up front fees are daunting.I have been reading about copyright ownership and that seemed to be the way to proceed until this morning when I came across the Ask website that said that when a work was commissioned UK law states that the copyright is automatically transferred to the commissioner. My plan was to withdraw licence for the client to sell my copyright material and seek a competitor who would be interested in purchasing the copyright, or even market the item myself and continue to develop other features. I was also intending to discover (I think that is the term) how many units have been sold and also an appropriate level of royalty that reflects the value of what I have designed in the market. I was hoping that this approach would allow the use of the IPO Mediation Service.Chris

OK thank you, ***** ***** it with me. I am in court today so will prepare my advice during the day and get back to you at the earliest opportunity. There is no need to wait here as you will receive an email when I have responded. Thank you.

I have looked into your query in more detail but unfortunately it is not something I can assist with. I will therefore ‘opt out’ and a colleague better placed to deal with the nature of your query should hopefully pick this up soon. Please do not reply in the meantime as that will just assign the question back to me and you will experience a delay. Thank you

Thanks for your question. Unless the software was written in the course of employment in which case the employer owns the copyright, you still retain ownership unless there is a contract to say otherwise. See part I of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act 1988.

JGM, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 12067
Experience: 30 years as a practising solicitor.
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