Indianapolis, IN – Judge Tanya Walton Pratt of the Southern District of Indiana denied summary judgment on what would have disposed of a dispute over the intellectual property rights to tax software used by many Indiana county governments. Nikish Software Corporation of Commack, New York had sued Manatron Incorporated of Portage, Michigan, alleging breach of contract regarding intellectual property rights to the software.
This dispute arose over rights to software and related services that have been provided to over 80 Indiana county governments by Manatron and similar software and services provided by Nikish to Indiana counties. Nikish and Manatron originally worked together to develop software systems for Dauphin County, Pennsylvania and Baltimore County, Maryland. At the completion of these projects, the two companies parted ways and signed a settlement agreement whereby Nikish agreed not to disclose or reproduce any of Manatron’s confidential or proprietary information, specifically Manatron’s tax software. Thereafter, Nikish began developing its own tax software to compete with Nikish. In 2006, Nikish marketed its software to Vigo County, Indiana. When Manatron discovered Nikish’s marketing efforts in Indiana, it sent a letter to 56 Indiana counties and the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance stating that Nikish’s software was “nothing more than a misappropriated derivative copy” of Manatron’s software. In 2007, Nikish brought the present lawsuit. Manatron counterclaimed alleging copyright infringement of its software, but the court denied the copyright infringement claim in a prior ruling.
The court’s most recent ruling denied summary judgment in favor of Manatron on the breach of contract claim, allowing that claim to go forward. Judge Pratt granted summary judgment denying Nikish’s tortuous interference with contract, tortuous interference of business relationships, and defamation claims. Following the summary judgment, the breach of contract claim would have gone to a jury for ultimate disposition. However, the parties reached a settlement. The court then dismissed the case on July 15, 2011, pursuant the stipulation and settlement of the parties.
Practice Tip: This case illustrates that, in addition to traditional patent, copyright and trademark infringement claims, there may be many additional types of claims available when there is a dispute over intellectual property.