Updates on the Case of Kogan V Martin

In a previous blog, we reported on the Court of Appeal's decision in the court case of Kogan v Martin and others that had considered the law relating to joint ownership of copyright works. The Court of Appeal's ruling reversed the decision made by Judge Hacon in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) and ordered a retrial.

As a result, former couple Nick Martin and Julia Kogan recently found themselves back in the High Court before Mr Justice Meade.

Background

In the original proceedings in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) in 2017, Nick Martin had successfully demonstrated that he was the sole owner of the copyright in the screenplay for the 2016 film entitled Florence Foster Jenkins.  

However, in late 2019, the Court of Appeal was persuaded by Julia Kogan that the approach taken by Judge Hacon (the IPEC Judge) had resulted in failures to make essential primary findings of fact on the main issues in the case and therefore there was no option but for the Court of Appeal to order a retrial.  

The Retrial

At the retrial, Mr Justice Meade found in favour of Julia Kogan and held that she was a joint author of the screenplay and that her contribution to the screenplay was 20%. In making this decision, the Judge considered both the witness evidence given at Court and documentary evidence. While the Judge commented that aspects of Julia Kogan's evidence were "very unreliable" concerning the final stages of the screenplay's development, he found her evidence regarding the screenplay's early development to be "generally accurate". The Judge also went on to say that Julia Kogan had:

  • The original idea of a screenplay about Florence Foster Jenkins;
  • Provided comments and input, often at Nick Martin's request that went well beyond mere editing; and
  • Provided input in relation to musical feeling and content.  

Therefore, Mr Justice Meade concluded that although Julia Kogan had not done any writing concerning the screenplay, she was still a joint author with Nick Martin. Assessing her contribution as 20%, the Judge held that Julia Kogan was entitled to relief from Nick Martin for copyright infringement.

Julia Kogan had also added some film companies into the Court proceedings for copyright infringement and other claims. The film companies relied on a defence that Nick Martin presented the screenplay to them in his sole name and that Julia Kogan had not raised any objection to the same until a later date. The Judge agreed with those defences and said it would be "unconscionable" for Julia Kogan to now be entitled to relief from the film companies for copyright infringement.  

Conclusion

While Mr Justice Meade's decision could be appealed; his decision may mark the end of a lengthy and bitter battle between Nick Martin and Julia Kogan.  

Both the Court of Appeal and the High Court have provided very helpful practical guidance on how joint authorship tests can be applied where co-authors' respective contributions are unequal or where an alleged co-author has not written any of the works as was the case here. 

Mr Justice Meade's decision also highlights the importance of co-authors raising copyright issues as early as possible. Whilst Julia Kogan can now pursue Nick Martin for remedies relating to copyright infringement; she cannot pursue the film companies for any losses she has suffered.  

Here to Help

Our specialist Intellectual Property Disputes Solicitors routinely advises on a broad range of disputes involving copyright and other intellectual property disputes relating to trademarks, patents, confidential information and data protection. If you need advice on the copyright or other intellectual property infringements, please do not hesitate to contact us on 0161 941 4000 or you can email the Intellectual Property Disputes Team.