8 August 2004 Legal news, law news, law firm news & research at LAW…

8 August 2004 Legal news, law news, law firm news & research at LAWFUELHerbert Smith has successfully defended easyJet Airline Company Limited against a claim of computer copyright infringement made by Navitaire Inc, a subsidiary of Accenture and a supplier of low-cost airline computer software. The High Court trial lasted six weeks.

Navitaire claimed that easyJet had infringed the copyright of its reservation system “OpenRes”. OpenRes was used by easyJet until it introduced its own replacement system, “eRes”. Navitaire maintained that the screens, command codes and the “business logic” of their OpenRes system had been infringed by easyJet’s eRes system.

The protectability of a computer’s “look and feel” has been hotly disputed around the world for many years. In a 200-page judgment, Mr Justice Pumfrey in the UK High Court has come down firmly against extending UK copyright law to protect the “look and feel” of a computer’s user or web interface. Navitaire also failed in its claim that the OpenRes database had been copied by easyJet.

Commercially, this was a major victory for easyJet. Had easyJet lost, its entire airline reservation system could have been injuncted by the High Court causing disruption to the public and a large loss of business. It would have had to redesign its system at great expense and inconvenience or consider losing some control over its IT and taking a system from Navitaire, who dominates the market.

Commenting on the decision, easyJet’s Chief Executive, Ray Webster said:

“This is a good day for the consumer, we have always maintained that this was a fatuous claim and a waste of time…easyJet’s development of our own computer software system has been critical in allowing the airline to lead the sector in terms of innovation.”

The Herbert Smith IP team was led by Bill Moodie, assisted by Heather Newton, Lucy Harrold, Gareth Morgan and Rebecca Powell. Herbert Smith instructed Richard Arnold QC and Brian Nicholson of 11 South Square.

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