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Unformatted text preview: 1 AVTEC SYSTEMS, INCORPORATED, Plaintiff-Appellant, v. JEF- FREY G. PEIFFER; KISAK-KISAK, INCORPORATED; PAUL F. KISAK, Defendants-Appellees. AVTEC SYSTEMS, INCORPO- RATED, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. JEFFREY G. PEIFFER; KISAK- KISAK, INCORPORATED, Defendants-Appellants, and PAUL F. KISAK, Defendant. 21 F.3d 568 (4 th Cir. 1994) PHILLIPS, Circuit Judge: In these consolidated appeals, we consider a number of copyright and state-law claims arising from the parties' failure to memorialize their intentions regarding ownership of a computer program. We affirm in part, vacate in part, and remand for further proceedings. I The facts, as described by the district court are as follows. Avtec Systems, Inc. (Avtec) markets space-related computer services and products to the federal government. Its services include com- puterized simulations of satellite orbital patterns. Jeffrey G. Peiffer began working part-time for Avtec while in college and became the company's fifth full-time employee upon his graduation in 1984. During his career with Avtec, his job description included "implementing computer simula- tion" and, specifically, simulating "satellite orbits." In 1984, Avtec purchased a Macintosh computer at Peiffer's suggestion. After Peiffer demon- strated the computer's abilities to Avtec President Ronald Hirsch and other employees, it became apparent that the company's orbital simulations would be enhanced in several respects by using a Macintosh. It is disputed whether that idea originated with Peiffer alone or in discussions with other Avtec personnel; it also is disputed whether Avtec authorized Peiffer to begin developing a com- puter program for that purpose ("the Program") as he did in 1985. Peiffer demonstrated the Program called "the .309 version" to Hirsch and others at Avtec that same year, and again during his 1988 performance [*570] appraisal as evidence of his initiative on the job. At that point, Hirsch and another Avtec employee suggested several modifications to enhance the Program's utility as a marketing tool for the company. Peiffer charged time to an Avtec account for making those enhancements. Peiffer also received a $5,000 bonus in early 1989 for helping to land a contract by demonstrating the Program as a unique Avtec service. He performed similar demonstrations for other clients as well. Later that year, Avtec issued a written policy, of which Peiffer was aware, binding employees to duties of confidentiality and nondisclosure respecting the company's proprietary information and trade secrets. In early 1990, another Avtec employee found some bugs in the Program. After Peiffer fixed them, that other employee presented the corrected version to a client. In 1991, Avtec labeled the Program as a trademark and advertised it as unique to Avtec. At no time before his eventual depar- ture from Avtec did Peiffer represent to his employer or to its potential clients that he had an owner- ship interest in the Program. 2 In 1992, however, when Peiffer was asked to demonstrate the Program to NASA as part of a...
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This note was uploaded on 01/13/2012 for the course LAW 33800A taught by Professor Williamfisher during the Fall '10 term at Harvard.
- Fall '10