A California software development company being sued in the UK for copyright infringement has asked a US court to declare it is innocent of the charges under US law.
BulletProof Technologies has insisted that it has not infringed any US copyrights from its UK accuser, Navitaire. The problem dates back to 1996, when Navitaire, then called Open Skies, sold a travel reservation system called OpenRes to UK airline EasyJet.
"From 1999 onwards, we found Navitaire becoming very unresponsive to our needs. The changes we requested were made slowly and expensively," said EasyJet head of corporate affairs Toby Nicol.
Eventually, EasyJet hired BulletProof to build a new system.
In December 2001, EasyJet implemented the system, called eRes. They had agreed previously that BulletProof would be able to sell eRes to other companies as well.
However, in May 2002, Navitaire sued EasyJet in the UK, alleging that eRes violates Navitaire software copyrights. Months later Navitaire also added BulletProof to the lawsuit.
Navitaire initially alleged copying of its source and binary code, but backed off this claim after it became evident during the discovery phase that this was untrue, BulletProof said.
Navitaire then amended its complaint, alleging that eRes accepted some of the same commands as its product, included similar database fields and employed the same business logic.
While the case is still continuing in the UK, BulletProof filed its lawsuit because it was convinced that Navitaire's allegations did not constitute copyright infringement in the US.
Should the court rule in favour of BulletProof, the company could then proceed to sell its eRes product without fear of a possible copyright violation in the US. The company has several companies interested in buying eRes.
BulletProof stated in its complaint that eRes is significantly different from OpenRes. Among the differences is that OpenRes was written in Cobol, while eRes is written in Visual Basic. The programs are also different in structure.
"At no time did BulletProof have access to either the source code or object code of the OpenRes program, and, hence, Navitaire’s code was not copied," BulletProof says in its complaint.
The UK case law is generally considered to be less clear than the US case law on matters of copyright software, so BulletProof and EasyJet hope that a favourable decision from the US court will strengthen their defence in the UK.