ObjectiVision will pay the University of Sydney $21,525 for effectively delaying proceedings in an intellectual property dispute that began in 2013, the Federal Court ruled on Thursday.
The court ruled that ObjectiVision, a glaucoma testing company that has accused USyd of copyright infringements, must compensate the University for filing an application to change its claim, which stalled the case throughout July 2018. It cost the University $31,250 to fight the application, $21,525 of which is recoverable. ObjectiVision will also pay Visionsearch, a competitor in the glaucoma testing field, an undisclosed amount for the interlocutory period.
Objectivision, founded in 1999, originally had an exclusive license to commercialise patents from the Save Sight Institute, USyd’s ophthalmic centre. The company was part-owned by the University, and USyd still owns a 0.73 per cent share. It developed an ‘AccuMap’ machine to detect visual field loss in people with glaucoma, which was based on ‘OPERA’ software.
ObjectiVision went bankrupt in 2007. USyd ended its exclusivity agreement with ObjectiVision in 2008, and ended their various licensing agreements in 2011. Visionsearch emerged in 2010, to work with the Save Sight Institute in lieu of ObjectiVision.
The courtroom saga began five years ago, when ObjectiVision opened preliminary proceedings against the University and Visionsearch for allegedly infringing copyright on OPERA software.
In April 2014, the University claimed that ObjectiVision breached their licensing agreements, and owed $19,200 in unpaid fees. ObjectiVision responded by saying that USyd did not terminate the agreements properly.
Shortly afterwards, ObjectiVision filed a cross-claim: it argued that USyd had plagiarised the OPERA code to write similar software, known as ‘TERRA’, which they then gave to Visionsearch, effectively granting them license to reproduce the OPERA source code. ObjectiVision also brought a case against Visionsearch for accepting and reproducing the allegedly stolen code, to create a device called Visionsearch1.
The case has been drawn out for half a decade, partly because ObjectiVision keeps amending its cross-claim: so far, it has amended its claim six times.
In 2015 the University estimated that the case would cost upwards of $1 million, according to the Australian Financial Review.
The AFR noted that the case reflects the difficulties of relying on licence agreements to negotiate business relationships, implying that universities should have significant equity in—and thus, more control over—the companies with patents on their research.
The latest trial began in March and, now that the interlocutory period is over, will recommence on 4-6 September.