An Ontario court has issued an interesting decision in a copyright battle between Research in Motion and Atari (the National Post incorrectly suggested it is a patent case over the weekend, but it is actually copyright). The case involves claims by Atari that two games available on the Blackberry (BrickBreaker and Meteor Crusher) infringe Atari's copyright in Breakout and Asteroids. RIM launched an action in Ontario seeking a declaration that it is not infringing Atari's copyright.
The new decision deals with an attempt by Atari to dismiss the RIM suit on the grounds that the Copyright Act does not include a declaratory remedy and that to use the provincial Courts of Justice Act would be unconstitutional (since copyright is a federal matter). The court disagreed on both counts, ruling that "there was no reason in principle why, in the appropriate circumstances, the court should not provide an equally efficacious remedy by way of declaration in a copyright case." Moreover, it rejected the argument as well, concluding that:
Section 91(23) of the Constitution Act indeed provides Parliament with exclusive jurisdiction with copyright. However section 92(14) of the Constitution Act grants the provinces exclusive jurisdiction with the administration of justice. I am not persuaded that there is a conflict between these two provisions.
The case therefore continues raising the possibility that Canadian courts are willing to entertain a copyright declaration into the Copyright Act. It is a case worth watching, since the same principle could be used by any number of other entities seeking assurance that their actions do not infringe copyright.