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Copyright Trouble for Kuoni, Thomas Cook India

October 31, 2017 Business News No Comments Email Email

Revelations of possible issues associated with an acquisition involving Swiss-based multinational Kuoni Travel Holdings Ltd may mean trouble ahead for those associated with the deal.http://www.granmonte.com/

Earlier this year Thomas Cook India Group (NSE: THOMASCOOK) acquired Kuoni’s global network of destination management specialists (DMCs) in Asia, Australia, Middle East, Africa and the United States.

It is unclear whether, and if so to what extent, Thomas Cook and other entities were informed that the deal came complete with allegations by New Zealand company Tourplan of software copyright infringement and accompanying legal action.

Tourplan believe that parts of their system have been deliberately copied.

Tourplan, a 30 year old New Zealand headquartered company, allege that Kuoni, in concert with certain of its DMCs, copied their proprietary software system in a premeditated fashion over a three year period. Tourplan’s software is currently used by more than 370 tour operators and destination management companies globally.

In 2012 Kuoni, the Swiss parent of the DMCs engaged the listed Indian company NIIT Technologies Limited (NSE : NIITTECH) to build a new software system entitled Passion that would operate across the group, including several companies already using Tourplan.

According to documentation uncovered in investigation, management of Kuoni DMCs always wanted to have a single common application running across all the units in the group.

Kuoni analysed the various systems used by the DMCs and concluded that Tourplan was the most successful, and that it made sense to go for a Tourplan implementation across the group. With additional aims of owning their own source code and eliminating licensing costs, the project planned to reverse engineer Tourplan and develop a replica application.

Exposure began when an ex-Kuoni employee contacted Tourplan early in 2016 to disclose that they had been working at the Passion project. They said Passion was an online based copy of Tourplan and would be used by the Kuoni DMC Group as its master system.

In August 2016 another ex-Kuoni employee was able to demonstrate the Passion system live to a Tourplan employee who took photographs of the screens after being alarmed at Passion’s similarity to Tourplan.

After technical analysis comparing 2,000 fields across 160 end user screens, Tourplan has found a 98% correlation between their Tourplan iS v2.77 and Passion version 1. Database structures, terminology, XML API and Web Interfaces correspond similarly.

In 2016 Tourplan launched a lawsuit in the High Court of Auckland, New Zealand against the then-Kuoni-owned Australian DMC, ATM Travel Pty. That lawsuit alleges breach by ATM of Tourplan’s End User License Agreement (EULA) and copyright violation.

Recently Tourplan was provided with other documents that reference reverse-engineering of Tourplan’s software components to build the new Passion system and which expose a deeper level of planning and collaboration across the wider group.

Tourplan’s view is that “… the evidence of copyright infringement is clear and convincing. Not having recourse to dialogue, it’s just a case of which of the legal options to progress.”

Kuoni has initially rejected the statements as inaccurate and defamatory with Thomas Cook and NIIT yet to respond.

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