Usually your own work is the last thing you’d worry about copying but Burrows v Smith, a Chancery Division judgment published today, reveals the pitfalls. Burrows is a computer games designer who came up with a game in 1998, recording it in a document. In 2005 he became an employee of Circle Studio Ltd and designed a game called Traktrix. Unbeknowst to Circle, Traktrix embodied elements of the 1998 game. Burrows was copying his own work! Circle subsequently went into liquidation and Crush Digital Media bought some of its assets.
Burrows argued that he’d given Circle an implied licence to use the 1998 document but the licence had been terminated when Circle went into liquidation and could not be assigned to Crush. Norris J held that the 1998 document was not incorporated into Traktrix consensually, so there was no licence but an assignment (if it had to be categorized).