Friday, 24 October 2014

India investigates Mr Cricket software over IP misuse

As Hashim Amla completed his 16th ODI ton within the last few hours in what looks to be an easy victory for the South Africans over New Zealand (currently 90/5 chasing an imposing 289), Hashim's picture appears in The Indian Express under the heading Bangalore Cops Probe South African Cricket Team's Analyst

Hashim is pictured alongside software analyst Prasanna Agoram, the performance analyst of the South African cricket team to whom he dedicates a triple ton in England. According to the article, Mr Prasanna who recently licensed his software tool Mr Cricket to Cricket South Africa, is being investigated for breaching copyright and know how laws in India:

"In the first of its kind case in India since the emergence of computer analysis of cricketers as a key coaching tool, cyber crime police in Bangalore are investigating a top performance analyst with the South African national cricket team for alleged theft of proprietary coaching software belonging to a company run by a former India and Karnataka cricketer."

We are seeing more and more of these types of cases (see here and here, for example) and it has been apparent from the audience attending these Breakfast Seminars that the protection of know how and software is increasingly of interest. 

Software, is of course, largely protected by copyright and contractual relationships regulating confidential information and termination of employment (eg restraints of trade), and occasionally a smart patent lawyer can obtain patent protection. However, because of:
  • the difficulties in determining who owns copyright in software (eg establishing who did exercise control under South African law, for example), 
  • showing proof of copying (re-engineering is generally acceptable and it can be difficult to obtain evidence of copying) 
  • NDAs and employment contracts are often badly drafted or not entered into at all; and
  • courts can be expensive and understood to be risky
the perception (at least in South Africa) is that very little protection exists for software. The reality though is that proper agreement work regulating ownership and proper advice on IP structuring within ventures can save a tremendous amount of time, cost and effort when things go wrong (which they often do as is illustrated by The Indian Express). 

There is also strong protection under the Counterfeit Goods Act for software piracy that is often overlooked as a means of obtaining evidence of copying and quick relief against copying. In other parts of Africa, eg Kenya and Nigeria specific copyright enforcement structures have been set up and have been very effective in protecting software.

It will be interesting to see what happens in India, reporting on the first ever case of its kind. If anyone has any more information, please share it. This is not the first time this blog has covered cricket related technology. For long time readers they may remember this post and the series of posts that followed. Have a good Friday. New Zealand now almost all out. Damn good software that is.

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