Theft of intellectual property
Our client, a software development company became aware of a new competitor selling a product very similar to their own. When the developer checked with the company records office they found that the competitor was owned by contractors who had formerly worked on the development of their own product.
Had the contractors stolen the software source code from our clients?
• Imaged and analysed the computers used by the contractors while working at our clients (despite the fact that they had been reissued over 6 months before).
• Recovered web-mail communications among the suspects, and between the suspects and venture capital companies.
• Proved that the consultants had intended to steal our client’s software even as they were developing it – they had registered their new company and obtained working capital while working for our client.
• Found that the consultants had placed 'backdoors' into the software they had developed for our client, so they could return and copy upgrades after they had left.
• Based on evidence retrieved, our clients won a court injunction preventing their competitors from continuing to use the stolen software.
• Our clients also won the right of inspection of all their competitor’s computer systems to ensure that all of the stolen software had been fully deleted.
• Our clients were awarded full costs.
Theft of IP by consultants (both intentionally and unintentionally) is a serious problem in Ireland. A number of similar cases have now been dealt with in Irish courts. It is important that consultants should only use computers issued to them, and not their own equipment to ensure that the threat of IP theft is minimised. Consultants’ contracts should be tightly written to ensure that the ownership of completed source and object code, algorithms and processes and methods remain the possession of the contracting party.
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