Damages need to be proven, says IP lawyer
13 March 2023
“In Singapore, damages in intellectual property cases are compensatory in nature, even when it comes to aggravated damages. Damages need to be proven, and possibly in this case, there was insufficient proof on the plaintiff’s part,” said Mark Teng, executive director at that.legal in Singapore.
Teng was referring to the High Court of Singapore’s recent ruling on the copyright infringement lawsuit filed by American software firm Siemens Digital Industries Software against Singaporean medical equipment manufacturer Inzign Pe Ltd.
Siemens sued Inzign for over SG$400,000 (US$297,435) on account of an Inzign employee installing an unlicensed version of the former’s NX Software in an unused computer laptop he found at their office’s toolroom.
In its ruling however, the court decided that the damages to be paid by Inzign amounts to only SG$30,574 (US$23,000). The court based its determination of the damages on license fees that Siemens would have received from Inzign for use of the software.
The amount cited by Siemens in its lawsuit included SG$259,511 (US$193,000) in damages and additional damages of SG$200,000 (US$148,711) as punishment. The court held that the SG$259,511 was too huge and that there was no need for additional damages.
The American company stated that Inzign was directly and vicariously liable for copyright infringement. The court disagreed, finding the local firm to be only vicariously liable for copyright violation because of the company’s weak anti-piracy policies. It reasoned that the Singaporean firm had no knowledge of and control over its employee’s infringing activity.
“There hasn’t been many cases that have assessed damages for copyright infringement in Singapore and so this case is significant from a jurisprudential standpoint. It helps lawyers better advise clients of the likely damages if they take their cases to court,” Teng added.
The Inzign employee was discovered to have used the software at least 15 times from December 2020 to April 2021. He installed NX, a software solution for product development, in the laptop he found at the toolroom after learning there were no administrative controls.
Siemens filed the suit after Inzign had declined the former’s offer of a licence for one module of the NX software with a SG$79,587 (US$59,000) price tag.
- Espie Angelica A. de Leon