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Court slaps Time Group for ripping off PC-in-a-desk design

A 'disgraceful' act, rules judge

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i-desk Solutions, a British company that builds computers into desks, has won an injunction against Time Computers' parent company preventing the UK PC supplier from offering a desk-integrated computer of its own.

i-desk's injunction was granted at the Royal Courts of Justice on Tuesday, 16 December after the judge, Mr Justice Patten, ruled that the Time Group had "deliberately" and "disgracefully" attempted to copy and pass off its own systems as i-Desk product.

i-desk's system, aimed at schools and businesses, bolts a slimline PC into the desk's metal frame. An LCD monitor is mounted onto the tabletop. Each desk is designed to connect to others, jigsaw-fashion for greater stability and in the classroom. The company touts the system's safety and security advantages.

It has filed for patent protection, but to date the patent has not been granted. The system was developed in 1999.

The Court found that Time's move to offer a similar system was no mere chance but a deliberate attempt to capitalise upon i-desk's invention. Furthermore, the company had banked upon i-desk being unable to take remedial action against it. Time took a "calculated risk by the then chairman of Time Group, Mr Mohsan, that Mr Brooks [the designer of the i-desk] would [not] have the ability seriously to contest any infringement", the judge ruled.

The Court ordered the Time Group to pay an initial £200,000 towards i-Desk's costs pending a full damages hearing early next year. Time has to cough up the sum by 12 January 2004.

The ruling also orders Time Computers to provide i-Desk with the names and addresses of all customers who bought its product. ®

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