RF&Co in contract breach action

Both sides are claiming victory in a legal case between Rodney Fitch & Co and on-line antiques site Antiquesportfolio.

Both sides are claiming victory in a legal case between Rodney Fitch & Co and on-line antiques site Antiquesportfolio.com, after a judge ruled that the design consultancy should still be paid, despite infringing a third party’s copyright.

The dispute arose after Rodney Fitch & Co was accused of reproducing images for APC which had originally been used in Miller’s antiques industry guide and valuation book. This was denied by the design group.

The international consultancy was originally commissioned to create a corporate identity for the Internet start-up – a forum for antique dealers to display their collections on-line and enable consumers to purchase goods via the Web.

Rodney Fitch & Co was subsequently asked to design the APC website, stationery, brochures and business cards, while Immuto was appointed to build the site. However, APC, represented by Field Fisher Waterhouse, claimed the icons used for its site were identical to those used in Miller’s literature.

The resultant legal proceedings saw APC sue Rodney Fitch & Co for breach of contract while Rodney Fitch & Co counter-claimed that its work was original and demanded payment of its fees.

In his summary judgement Mr Justice Neuberger says: “Even though Rodney Fitch argued the photographs on the website were small scale copies, they were complete copies and therefore infringements.

“Accordingly, APC was entitled to summary judgement in part, on the basis that there was copyright in photographs which Rodney Fitch has infringed. Further matters, however, were not suitable for determination at summary judgement stage and were therefore left for determination at a full hearing,” he adds.

However, he awarded fees to the design consultancy for the creative work that it had produced, as well as legal costs.

“We are delighted our position has been vindicated and that we’ll be paid the money due to us for the work we undertook,” says Rodney Fitch & Co chairman Rodney Fitch. “We’ve been awarded costs and this further underlines our position. This is very good news not just for us, but for the design industry as a whole.”

Partner and head of FFW’s brands, technology and communication litigation group Nick Rose says: “The ruling on costs makes it a hollow victory and is surprising given Antiquesportfolio.com can’t use any of the design work and corporate materials supplied by Rodney Fitch & Co.”

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