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Case preview: database rights at play as Ordnance Survey in court

Ordnance Survey, the national mapping agency for Great Britain, is in court this week to defend a case in which IP and database rights are at issue

This claim, being heard in the England & Wales High Court this week, relates to a product developed by small and medium-sized enterprise (SME), 77M, called “Matrix”. 

The system is a database of geospatial and other information. It provides customers with data including details of buildings, their coordinates and other attributes.

77M submits that it has spent more than £500,000 ($628,000) in developing the product and, in the process, has licensed data from several organisations, including Ordnance Survey (OS) – the government-owned mapping agency in the UK.

In 2016, 77M sought a declaration of non-infringement of OS’s IP rights. 

OS believes 77M can't make such a declaration and that the company has infringed its IP rights. It adds that 77M never had consent to use OS’s data in the first place.

According to 77M, OS has failed to explain what copyright or database rights it owns which may have been infringed.

In August 2016, 77M issued a claim at the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court seeking:

• A declaration that the development of its product does not infringe any database or copyright belonging to OS, and is not in breach of any contract with OS;

• A declaration that the licensing or use of the product by its customers does not infringe such rights or breach any contract with the OS;

• An injunction to restrain OS from making any allegations to the contrary effect; and

• An injunction to restrain OS from instructing third parties to withhold data from 77M.

The case was later transferred to the main Chancery Division. 

Bournemouth-based firm Laceys Solicitors, which took over from Ince Gordon Dadds earlier this year, is acting for 77M. The firm has instructed barrister Jaani Riordan of 8 New Square.

International firm Fieldfisher, acting for OS, has instructed Lindsay Lane QC and Jessie Bowhill, both also of 8 New Square.

The case will last two weeks from today (Monday), with arguments first being aired on Wednesday. 

An OS spokesperson said: “At this time our focus is on preparing for the trial, which commences on Wednesday July 17. We expect the trial to conclude by the end of July with judgment being delivered following the summer recess. We will not be commenting on matters relating to the trial until the judgment has been given.” 

A 77M spokesperson says it believes the company has a strong case and is looking forward to its day in court. 

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