(CN) – In a public rebuke, the European Union General Court ordered the European Commission to pay a software company nearly $16 million for infringing specially developed translation programs.
From 1997 to 2002, Systran Luxembourg adapted machine translation software for the European Commission’s language needs, resulting in the customized EC-Systran Unix program.
Parent company Systran then claimed in 2003 that the commission infringed its intellectual property rights by putting out a call for bids to update the software.
Systran sought damages for disclosure of trade secrets to a third party after the commission awarded a contract to another company.
After failed settlement negotiations, the General Court of the European Union ruled that though the contracts between Systran and the European Commission did not deal with disclosure to a third party, a substantial similarity exists between the Systran Unix and EC-Systran translation systems.
The European Commission can only share the translation-software programming to third parties with Systran’s permission, the court said, calling that the commission’s copyright infringement a “serious breach” of noncontractual liability.
The court also cited a blurry line on dictionaries developed by the commission within the Systran translation software.
The Luxembourg-based court ordered the European Commission to pay Systran $9.25 million in fees, $6.61 million in lost profits from 2004 to 2010, and a token $1,350 for damage to Systran’s reputation. On the latter, the court said its ruling and official statement should help to vindicate the software company.
Systran could also refile for possible damage incurred before 2004, the General Court noted.
The 27-country European Union, which operates on a principle of multilingualism, has 23 official languages, including Irish and Maltese. Translation accounts for about 1 percent of the EU’s annual budget, in 2008 amounting to about $3.30 per citizen per year.