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Ordnance Survey and GeoPlace welcome High Court judgement

Judgment has been given in favour of Ordnance Survey and GeoPlace LLP, following a trial in the High Court in July.

The court case concerned a complex dispute between OS and a company called 77M Limited, in relation to intellectual property rights.

The full text of the judgment is now available. In August 2016, 77M initiated legal proceedings against OS seeking declarations from the Court that their product, known as Matrix, did not infringe intellectual property rights of OS.

OS defended the claim, and counterclaimed (together with GeoPlace) for infringement by 77M of Crown/OS intellectual property rights.   

OS and GeoPlace welcome the Court’s decision, which recognises and confirms the value of intellectual property rights, in particular database rights, in OS and GeoPlace data. The decision recognises and protects the significant investment which both organisations make every year to ensure the quality of the information which customers across the public and private sector rely on.    

The key question for OS and GeoPlace from the outset of the case was how 77M had been able to create a product on a national scale which included address data linked accurately to locations, without infringing OS and GeoPlace intellectual property rights. The judgment now confirms that 77M’s product used information and processes which amounted to acts of infringement of database rights held by OS and GeoPlace. In particular, the judgment states (at paragraph 123) that “Matrix in its current form would not be a viable dataset of addresses and accurate geospatial co-ordinates” without using such infringing data.

The key elements of the judgement are as follows: 

  • 77M were found to have breached the terms of licences with HM Land Registry (HMLR) and Registers of Scotland (RoS), who are OS licensees, in relation to various information produced using OS data.
  • 77M were found to have scraped 3.5 million addresses from HMLR’s Find a Property Service in breach of the applicable terms.
  • 77m’s use of the above information obtained from HMLR and RoS amounted to acts of infringement of database rights held by OS and GeoPlace.
  • 77M failed in their claim that OS had procured a breach of contract by HMLR.    
  • 77M were found not to have breached the terms of a licence known as the INSPIRE Download terms.  (Note: that the relevant terms were entered into by 77M in 2013 and have since been clarified)   
  • 77m's use of about 480,000 addresses manually downloaded from HMLR’s Find a Property Service was found not to infringe OS database rights, as the use fell within one of the statutory defences under the Database Regulations.    

 

The judgment specifically states that “although 77M achieved a measure of success, the winning parties in this case are the claimants on the counterclaim, Ordnance Survey and GeoPlace”.     

OS's preference is to always seek to resolve disputes through discussion. However, Crown/OS IPR is extremely important to us, and we will take action where necessary to uphold IPR both for the benefit of OS and our customers and other stakeholders.