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B.C. tech firm hailed as Startup of the Year started up with other company's software

B.C. tech firm acclaimed for 'innovation' violated copyright, court rules
PH-Computers aug10
The provincial government-sponsored Small Business BC 'Best Innovation' certificate went to Matidor earlier this year. (Getty Images)

A new Vancouver tech company once hailed by Premier John Horgan for its innovation, and by the industry as the province’s Startup of the Year, actually started up by committing copyright infringement, a federal court judge has ruled.

Matidor Technologies Inc. was found to have infringed copyright and engaged in passing off contrary to the Copyright Act and Trademarks Act, Justice Nicholas McHaffie ruled on Dec. 1.

Co-defendant Wing Chuen (Vincent) Lam founded Matidor after leaving Ark Platforms, a previous company he co-founded. In 2019, he began marketing and licensing map-based project management software, which infringed upon the software developed by Ark, dubbed Arkit.

Prior to the court case, Lam admitted to the copyright infringement but denied “passing off” the product, meaning he denied calling it his own.

But the judge determined Lam tried to rebrand the product and misrepresented it to consumers in doing so. Lam had also made “partially true” public statements such as claiming he was “the original creator of the product,” when, in fact, he was one of a number.

McHaffie issued a stern rebuke of Lam’s copyright infringement and certain actions he took publicly.

“Mr. Lam’s infringement can be taken to be knowing and deliberate. I also have significant concern with Mr. Lam’s conduct in presenting the infringing copies of Arkit as Matidor’s own product, continuing to infringe after receiving the plaintiffs’ demand letter and, graver still, asserting to potential customers that Matidor had rewritten the whole program and was not using any of the Arkit software, when he knew that this was not the case. Mr. Lam was not simply a ‘careless co-founder’ as the defendants contend,” wrote McHaffie.

But while Ark sought $900,000 in damages plus punitive damages, the judge found Lam to be cooperative and in the end settled for $277,400 worth of damages and no punitive penalty. Orders were also placed on Matidor to prevent it from further infringements.

“The defendants did take steps in response to the plaintiffs’ demand letter, albeit not by ceasing use of the infringing software. They took substantial efforts to rewrite the software to avoid infringement,” noted the judge. 

“They responded to and participated in this action, providing disclosure allowing an assessment of appropriate remedies. And they are facing significant financial damages that in my view will be sufficient to meet the objectives of retribution, deterrence and denunciation,” wrote McHaffie.

Lam issued a contrite statement online following the decision: “Integrity is not about not making mistakes; it's about owning up to them. …I soon realized the mistake of starting off on the wrong foot and took steps to correct it. In retrospect, it would have been a better technical decision to build from scratch, especially when I never needed any of my prior work.”

The provincial government-sponsored Small Business BC “Best Innovation” certificate went to Matidor earlier this year, with the case before the courts. And, the BC Tech Association awarded Matidor the 2021 Startup of the Year award. Glacier Media has asked the association if it intends to keep the award in good standing and will update this article when it receives a response.

gwood@glaciermedia.ca