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Hotline software case to go to trial

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Hotline software case to go to trial, By NATHAN COCHRANE


A Victorian Supreme Court has found that defendants in the Hotline software case should stand trial fol lowing a decision handed down last Wednesday. It is likely Adam Hinkley (20), his father Paul and his business, Meta Consultants, will know next week the date of the trial when it is expected parties to the case will be asked how soon they can be ready.

Hotline Communications Ltd took the father and son pair to court last year, following an anton piller order on their homes in outer Melbourne suburbs. The Canadian company is seeking damages for alleged breach of fiduciary duty by Adam Hinkley while he was a director of the company.

Hotline is a software program that allows people to communicate over the Internet. It is alleged that Adam Hinkley sold the rights to a Canadian company, Hotline Communications, for $1 in return for capital to develop and commercially market the property.

Hotline Communications alleges that on 4 March 1998 Adam Hinkley acted improperly by stealing the source code to the software, shutting down Hotline's business premises including encrypting the remaining source code held on its computers, and illegally leaving Canada.

Hotline alleges that it was unable to comply with contractual obligations with Apple Computers because of Adam Hinkley's actions. Justice Warren said in her judgment that the ``complex facts surrounding the case as well as the actions of Adam Hinkley led her to ``conclude that there is a serious question to be tried.

Justice Warren also said the existing orders, including an anton piller order which resulted in the confiscation of computer equipment and CD-ROMs from Adam Hinkley's mother's home last September, should stand until trial.

The plaintiffs, Hotline Communications, were ordered to offer up $5,000 as security for damages should they lose the case against Paul Hinkley and his business.

Hotline must also provide the court with a bond of $35,000 by 7 April as security for costs as the business has no assets in Australia. In the separate matter of A2B v Hinkley, the Court has allowed the Melbourne telecommunications business to retain an independent expert to review the code.

This is to see if the programs in dispute are its intellectual property and might give rise to further action.