‘We did it first’: Sir Ian Taylor accuses Sir Russell Coutts over America’s Cup graphics

A battle over the rights to 3D yacht-racing graphics is brewing between two New Zealand knights, with one vowing to fight back against what he describes as hard-nosed tactics.

The stoush is between computer graphics pioneer Sir Ian Taylor, and former world- champion sailor and multi-millionaire Sir Russell Coutts in the wake of this year’s America’s Cup.

Taylor was stunned to read a recent press release in which the Coutts-controlled graphics system LiveLine claimed credit for introducing a 3D stand-up “stadium” wall around the racecourse during the SailGP racing in Bermuda in April.

“The world saw us deliver that stadium wall first during the Prada Cup in January. And now they’re claiming it as theirs.”

Oracle Racing and SailGP, companies backed by billionaire software tycoon Larry Ellison, threatened Taylor’s company Animation Research Ltd (ARL) with legal action unless it stopped using specific graphics or paid a licence fee shortly before the Prada Cup was about to start in January.

The Dunedin-based businessman says he thinks the copyright infringements are the other way around and is now exploring legal options and the cost to defend intellectual property.

“We have developed and used most of those graphics since 1992. This clearly demonstrates that this is not about justice,” Taylor told the Herald.

He believes he has gathered evidence to show ARL has used specific graphic elements in its Virtual Eye system for decades, elements that he says are being used by LiveLine. If Taylor is successful, his claim could affect Coutts’ ability to use the LiveLine system, which earns licensing fees from 175 broadcasters around the world.

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Taylor says German tech company Riedel Communications, which provided communications and onboard hardware during the America’s Cup, agreed to indemnify ARL against any intellectual property challenge in exchange for being able to use ARL’s graphics, a document the Herald has sighted.

Instead, Riedel and the official AC 36 production company Circle-O, did a confidential deal with Oracle and SailGP, agreeing to pay a licence fee. As far as Taylor is concerned, if the graphics are protected by copyright SailGP is now earning fees from graphics that ARL developed.

The Herald approached Coutts and Riedel Communications for responses to this story a week before publication but neither responded.

In a statement issued after the December copyright challenge, Coutts said his companies were seeking to safeguard intellectual property that they invested millions of dollars in to develop over the past decade.

“We prefer not to be forced to protect our rights via legal processes but, as with all copyrighted material, it must be licensed for use by commercial entities.”

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