Case Study: AFD Software v DCML Ltd

In the High Court case AFD Software v DCML Ltd [2015] EWHC 453 (Ch) (reported here by Richard Osbourne of 4 Pump Court), IT Group UK were instructed by Christopher Neilson of London Law Firm RPC (for DCML), to investigate a suite of software that enabled postcode lookup access to the Royal Mail’s database of addresses.

Executive Summary

The dispute was focused on how representations made by salesmen could undermine software licensing terms. In 2006 AFD provided a licence to DCML for the use of software which enabled access to the Royal Mail’s postcode database. DCML used the software for several years without incident for just under £2,000 per annum. However in 2010 AFD presented DCML with an invoice of £14.1m on the basis that the latter had not been using the software for the purposes of a ‘public internet website’ within the terms of the licence.

The Challenges

The calculation of the £14.1m figure was the subject of some technical debate in relation to software copyrights. Specifically, it was put forward that that AFD’s intellectual property rights were breached each and every time the software was executed because the source code may be copied into and out of RAM, CPU registers and virtual memory.

The Solution

IT Group was instructed to investigate the technical validity of this argument. In order to do so, we emulated DCML’s infrastructure and used forensic memory tools which allowed us to analyse the processes run when a user conducted a postcode lookup. We were therefore able to identify specific code from the software libraries and effectively monitor its allocation throughout the various memory stores.

Finally, in order to determine substantiality, it was necessary to understand how the CPU and operating system managed memory allocation for the program and therefore allowed us to quantify the extent of any alleged infringement.

Results

IT Group’s involvement, in this case, focused on the alleged copyright infringement of software via the replication of proprietary code in memory when using the software. This was the basis upon which a £14.1m claim was calculated, and is directly tied into the licensing issues on which the judgement concludes.