Monday, December 2, 2019

A Cautionary Tale for Transport and Logistics Professionals

Maritime Architect Grateful for Indemnity Insurance
Shipping News Feature

UK – WORLDWIDE – Thomas Miller, which manages such maritime insurance luminaries as the UK P&I Club and TT Club, also numbers some perhaps lesser known names within its portfolio of companies, one of which is the International Transport Intermediaries Club (ITIC), which specialises in indemnity insurance for professionals associated with the transport and logistics industry.

Appropriately ITIC uses the slogan ‘…because everyone makes mistakes’ and this week it has illustrated the kind of pitfall which can trap the most diligent of professionals, in this case a naval architect who faced legal action for unwittingly infringing design copyright.

The architect was asked by a customer to provide final designs and specifications for a workboat based on existing plans supplied by them. As the customer’s stamp was clearly shown on the plans, the naval architect assumed that the customer retained ownership.

With the final plans complete the finished vessel design was promoted in the trade press, where it was spotted by another naval architect who recognised the design as their own work. This led to a ‘cease and desist’ order lodged against the ITIC member.

It transpired the client had simply removed the copyright company stamp of the original planner and exchanged it for their own customer stamp. Despite significant design and specifications amendments to the original plans a copyright barrister engaged by ITIC concluded that these were really only refinements and had not adapted the design sufficiently from the original.

This led to the discontinuation of the project in its current form and meant a complete redesign from scratch until the copyright expert deemed the new design to be completely original, allowing the contract to go ahead and the vessel was constructed.

ITIC has urged all naval architects to ensure they have the right to use or modify plans supplied to them by a third-party. The case, which would likely have produced a legal action for breach of copyright save for the actions of the insurer, illustrates the sort of trap which can lead to serious consequences for an unwitting professional.