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Reliability Research v. Computer Associates

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Citation Edit

Reliability Research, Inc. v. Computer Assocs. Int'l, Inc., 793 F. Supp. 68 (E.D.N.Y. 1992) (full-text).

Factual Background Edit

In 1979, Plaintiff, Reliability Research Incorporated (RRI), entered into a contract with University Computing Company (UCC) where RRI licensed to UCC copyrighted programs referred to as “Reliability Plus.” In 1984, the parties entered into a new license agreement. The 1984 agreement included a provision that gave RRI ownership of certain computer programs made by UCC. In 1987, Defendant, Computer Associates International, Inc. (CA) took over UCC.

Trial Court Proceedings Edit

RRI filed a lawsuit asserting that CA breached the provision of the 1984 agreement. CA defended by claiming a misuse of copyright. RRI now moves to strike CA’s copyright misuse defense pursuant to Rule 12(f) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure on the ground of legal insufficiency.

In this action, RRI sought ownership in some of CA’s programs on the basis of the provision in the 1984 agreement. CA argues that the programs in question did not fall “within the area of computer reliability” as that phrase was intended to mean by the parties to the contract. CA further argued that if the phrase in question is interpreted to include those programs, then that provision is an unenforceable misuse of copyright because it extends rights in RRI’s copyrights well beyond their lawful scope. In the present motion, RRI moves to strike the copyright misuse defense on the ground that the defense does not exist here.

RRI argues that there was no misuse of copyright because its copyrights were not used as leverage to obtain ownership of CA’s copyrights because the 1984 “amendment” did not transfer any rights to RRI’s copyrights.

The Court held that RRI’s argument fails because the 1984 agreement was not an amendment to the 1979 agreement, but was an entirely new one where the copyrighted programs were exchanged for new royalties and rights to UCC’s programs. Thus, the question of whether there is a legal distinction under the copyright misuse doctrine between a copyright license agreement and an amendment to a pre-existing copyright license agreement was not before the court. Therefore, the court denined RII’s motion to strike without prejudice to renew on a partial summary judgment motion after discovery was complete.

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