OS takes on first lawyer as AA case ends

Field Fisher Waterhouse has steered Ordanance Survey (OS) to a £20m out of court settlement with the Automobile Association (AA) for copyright infringement. This comes after winning a three-year contract to continue advising the government organisation on intellectual property (IP) issues.

The news comes as OS appoints its first in-house lawyer to fill a role created to boost efficiency. Alex Griffin joined last week from Boots.

A spokesman for the organisation says that Griffin will be the first point of contact for all legal enquiries at OS. She will also be responsible for getting legal advice, both from private practice and the Government’s own legal advisory service.

Wragge & Co’s more recent relationship with OS has also been strengthened. Wragges and Field Fisher were both appointed to the OS panel following a competition between three firms last autumn. Wragges will advise on IT, human resources, employment, property, procurement and data protection.

Client partner and Wragges head of IT Bill Jones says: “OS is clearly concerned to obtain best value from its external service providers and this tender was part of that process. This strengthens our position by adding new areas to the portfolio of legal services we advise it on.”

The case against the AA, owned by Centrica since 1999, was OS’s biggest piece of litigation to date and one of the UK’s largest copyright infringement cases. The dispute over more than 500 AA publications ended when the £20m payout was agreed hours before a court case was due to begin on 6 March.

Field Fisher’s head of IP and IT litigation Nick Rose, who manages the client relationship, led the team advising OS. Samples of 24 atlases and town maps were chosen to make the case.

Rose says: “It was a massive task to see how such a case could ever be tried. From a legal point of view, it was particularly satisfying that the method we used, of selecting representative samples for a preliminary trial, can succeed in substantial copyright infringement cases such as this. The evidence relating to each publication was set out in schedules, which would have enabled the case to be tried in a manageable way.”

The AA agreed to become a licensee as part of the settlement.

Field Fisher and Wragges are currently working on a number of instructions for OS, including the creation of a new seemless information base called the Digital National Framework (DNF).

Field Fisher partner Paul Barton, who leads on non-contentious work, says: “This is a major project of strategic importance to OS and we are delighted to be working on the legal aspects of that project.”

He adds: “OS is at the forefront of challenging lawyers in advising on complicated data supply and IP issues.”