Mon | Oct 26, 2020

Big award for computer programmer against Paymaster

Published:Sunday | June 14, 2020 | 12:22 AMMcPherse Thompson - Assistant Editor – Business
A Paymaster outlet is pictured on March 26, 2020.
A Paymaster outlet is pictured on March 26, 2020.

The 20-year legal battle between Paymaster Jamaica Limited and Paul Lowe over breach of copyright ended on Thursday with the Supreme Court ordering the company to pay the computer programmer and software developer $282 million in damages.

Interest at six per cent was awarded on the sum covering the period August 25, 2000, to June 11, 2020.

Lowe’s attorney, Vincent Chen, said the interest would bring the total amount payable to his client to just over $600 million.

Justice Lisa Palmer Hamilton, who assessed damages, found that Lowe suffered financial losses because of an injunction that prevented him from selling his bill-payment software locally and internationally.

Paymaster, a bill-payment company founded by Ambassador Audrey Marks, had brought a claim against GraceKennedy Remittance Services Limited, GKRS, and Lowe after the computer programmer sold a bill-payment software to the food and financial conglomerate to launch its subsidiary, Bill Express.

Paymaster, which contended that it had exclusive rights to the software, which Lowe had first sold to it, obtained an injunction in the Supreme Court barring the programmer from selling his software.

Lowe and GKRS were successful in the Supreme Court in the claim against them as the court ruled that Lowe was the owner of the software.

Paymaster appealed, and in 2015, the Court of Appeal dismissed the action in relation to breach of copyright but allowed its appeal in relation to breach of confidence.

Paymaster and GKRS appealed to the United Kingdom Privy Council, which ruled in favour of GKRS with respect to the Court of Appeal’s ruling for breach of confidence.

Chen said the size of the award to Lowe makes it a landmark case.

“It has been before the court from August 25, 2000, when the injunction was put in place. The delay has caused the amount of interest to be extraordinary,” he said. “We are very happy with the judgment. We think the judge wrote a very good judgment. She understood the law. She has accurately recorded it and applied it. She has come to a fair and reasonable judgment as a result.”

Attorney for Paymaster Maurice Manning declined to comment.

However, Chen said attorneys for Paymaster have indicated that they want some time to consider whether they will appeal. “And we have agreed to that,” he said.

Paymaster was established by Marks in 1997, having developed and launched a proprietary bill-payment information system. Digicel Group acquired majority interest from Marks for an undisclosed sum in 2015. At the time, the company reportedly had more than 170 locations in Jamaica and agent relationships with over 40,000 locations in the United States and Canada.

mcpherse.thompson@gleanerjm.com