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New trial ordered in USI copyright breach case


PHILADELPHIA--The U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia has ordered a new trial on damages and statute of limitation issues in a copyright infringement case involving insurance brokerages USI Holdings Corp. and The Graham Co.

In June, a Philadelphia jury found that a USI subsidiary and a former Graham employee, who joined one of USI's predecessor firms in 1991, violated copyright infringement laws. The jury ordered the subsidiary--USI MidAtlantic Inc.--to pay Graham nearly $16.6 million and the former employee--Thomas P. Haughey--to pay nearly $2.3 million (BI, July 3).

Graham sued USIM and Mr. Haughey in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia in 2004, alleging that USIM and Mr. Haughey "knowingly," "willfully" and without authorization copied Graham's copyrighted, proprietary insurance service and coverage information to solicit and obtain insurance business for USIM.

Graham did not discover the alleged infringement until late 2004, when a USI customer asked Graham to quote insurance coverage.

In ruling on USIM's post-trial motions, the court on Nov. 21 denied USIM's motion for judgment as a matter of law but granted the broker's motion for a new trial on damages and statute of limitation issues.

"The effect of the court's ruling is to vacate the entire damage award entered upon the jury's verdict," USI said in a statement Monday. "USIM and Mr. Haughey intend to pursue the opportunity for a new trial...afforded them by the court and, if necessary, an appeal."

"We are disappointed with the court's decision to override the jury's finding that we are entitled to a recovery for the full 13 years of USI's infringement," said Graham attorney David J. Wolfsohn of Woodcock Washburn L.L.P. in Philadelphia. "Nonetheless, we intend to prove to another jury empanelled for this limited purpose that we are entitled to revenues earned by USI during all 13 years in which USI infringed the Graham Co.'s copyrights."

William A. Graham Co. vs. Thomas P. Haughey and USI MidAtlantic Inc.; U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania; No. 05-612.