Speed up NEC iPhone app case: judge

HiTech Telecom has been told to get its act together in a case it has brought against NEC Australia over the intellectual property of a voice over IP (VoIP) iPhone app.

HiTech Telecom has been told to get its act together in a case it has brought against NEC Australia over the intellectual property of a voice over IP (VoIP) iPhone app.

HiTech Telecom first launched legal action against NEC Australia in July 2010, seeking damages and compensation for work it had done for NEC Australia between September 2008 and January 2010 on a VoIP iPhone app.

HiTech developed the iPhone VoIP client app for Pennytel in 2008, which HiTech said would allow customers to make phone calls over 3G networks or Wi-Fi more cheaply than ordinary mobile phone calls. NEC Australia entered discussions with HiTech to adapt the app to work with NEC's PABX telephone systems.

The company alleged that NEC Australia agreed to pay a fee for the adaptation of the app to be customised to NEC's needs and branding, and HiTech agreed to not offer the same product to any of NEC Australia's competitors.

After a lengthy development process, NEC was alleged to have informed HiTech in February 2010 that it had developed an alternative product to the one that the company had been working on. NEC claimed that no agreement was reached between the two companies and that HiTech was never able to provide an adapted iPhone VoIP client to NEC Australia to be tested. NEC Australia also said it discovered that the HiTech app was developed using open source code, which HiTech had allegedly failed to disclose to the company. NEC Australia said that had it known that the app was developed using open source code, it would have developed the application in-house.

In Federal Court in Sydney today, Justice Geoffrey Flick admonished HiTech Telecom for taking so long in gathering evidence to determine costs. According to HiTech, it would need a further three months to gather evidence on what damages the company would be seeking from NEC Australia in lost revenue, with lawyers explaining more discovery was required.

"This case has been dragging on," Flick said. "It's a year later and we still don't have discovery or damages."

Flick did not allow HiTech the extra time it sought, and the company was ordered to file and serve damages claims before 22 August, as well as file and serve an expert report before 9 September. Both NEC Australia and HiTech were ordered to attempt to resolve the case outside of court before another hearing on 23 September. Flick said that if the case wasn't settled before this date, he will set the final hearing date for 3 January, and warned the lawyers not to set holidays for that time.

At the same time, NEC has taken HiTech to the Supreme Court in Victoria, seeking to reclaim an alleged debt of $8.5 million.

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