Date: March 1995
In May 1986, China Globe Lease Co., Ltd. (Globe)¡¯s board of directors determined it necessary to prepare a computerized internal management system to improve work efficiency. On 16 October 1986, the Globe retained Zheng Zhongzhong (Zheng) as Acting Manager and Vice Director of Computer Affairs.
During the course of his work, Zheng developed 2 sets of software for the company: (i) a Multi-Currency Financial Management System and (ii) a Lease Contract Management System. Early in 1992, Grant Cruise (Cruise), in his capacity as Globe¡¯s General Manager, requested Zheng to hand over the programs for these 2 sets of software. Because Zheng refused this request, Globe confiscated the computer that the he had been using for programming the software. In January 1993, Zheng transferred to another company.
In March 1995, Zheng filed suit at the Beijing First Intermediate People¡¯s Court (Court) on the grounds that Globe had infringed upon his copyright in the software, which had been used and operated by Globe for approximately 6 years at the time of the suit.
The Plaintiff claimed that he alone had designed the 2 sets of computer programs while assigned to work at Globe, but admitted that did not have a degree in computer science, and his position did not involve software design. The Plaintiff alleged that the Defendants did not offer any special capital, equipment or materials for use in developing the software, that the Defendants had not signed any software licensing agreement with the Plaintiff, and that Defendants¡¯ actions therefore constituted illegal reproduction and infringement of his copyright in the software.
The Defendants argued that the Plaintiff was recruited as a computer professional and, during the course of his employment, had always engaged in computer-related affairs. The development of the software was Globe¡¯s reason for hiring the Plaintiff, and the coordination of software programming was his primary work duty. As such, the development of software was one of the Plaintiff¡¯s work tasks. Globe asserted that it had offered capital, equipment and various other materials for software development.
Because the Plaintiff had no knowledge about lease financing or financial affairs before joining the company, Globe had appointed staff from the sales and financial departments to assist Zheng in developing the software. These personnel contributed to the software development by providing surveys, data, programming test results and other information.
The Defendants submitted 6 meeting memoranda and 7 employment documents signed by the Plaintiff during the course of his work showing that the development of software was one of his work duties. In addition, evidence was submitted to show that, from September 1986 to late 1992, Globe had directly disbursed RMB 304, 576.81 for the development of the software.
The Court found that the Plaintiff and Globe had entered into an employment relationship. Since the Plaintiff had been recruited by Globe as a computer professional and was in charge of computer affairs at the company, the development of software was deemed as one of his work duties. The Court found that the development of the software was done in accordance with the purposes and objectives of Globe. Moreover, Globe had offered various types of material support for the development of the software.
Therefore, Globe was deemed as the developer of and owner of copyright in the software. As such, the Plaintiff¡¯s claim that he owned the copyright was found to be groundless.
The Court rejected the Plaintiff¡¯s petition. The Plaintiff appealed his suit to the Beijing High People¡¯s Court which, after examination, denied the appeal and affirmed the lower court¡¯s ruling.