Following the receipt of a link kindly sent in by Chris Torrero (Katpat!) comes a guest post from Katfriend and former Guest Kat Rebecca Gulbul on an attempt by a disappointed entrepreneur to leverage a spot of compensation from an organisation that is known to its users as a body which is far better at taking money than at giving it away, as any visitor to London will know to their cost. This is what she writes:
Ajit Chambers, CEO of the Old Underground Company is reported to be suing Transport for London (TfL) on the basis that they used his business plan and held an unfair tender process, thus keeping him away from developing a project based on his plan.
Chambers became passionate about disused London underground stations (also known as ghost stations) a few years ago and has since spent considerable time and money working on a business plan to develop them into commercial opportunities.
In May 2015, TfL invited tenders for Down Street, a closed tube station located between Hyde Park Corner and Green Park. The brochure contained various possibilities for transforming a disused lift shaft, a passenger tunnel and one smaller tunnel into a theatre, shop, bar, restaurant, gallery or using it for product launches. TfL also welcomed further suggestions from various parties on how they would like to develop the space. Chambers placed a bid but later found out that his offer had been rejected. He has now said that“TfL’s procurement process is seriously flawed” as he and a few others were given access to the disused stations ahead of other bidders.
Down Street station in its heyday
Chambers’ specific legal grievances appear to be twofold, in that TfL used his business plan and that the tender process they used was unfair. While this blogpost cannot comment on the process, it can at least speculate as to whether his business plan, allegedly copied by TfL, was legally protectable.
The text of the business plan would be protected by copyright under s.1(1)(a) of the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA), falling into the category of a literary work. Assuming that Chambers created the business plan himself, he would own the copyright in it and could assert rights on it. Since he says that TfL have used his business plan as its “core document”, this suggests that they may have copied it, which would be a "restricted act" under s.16(1) of the CDPA.
Coming soon ...?
For copyright infringement to take place in the United Kingdom, TfL would have had to copy the whole or a substantial part of the work in their brochure. Without knowing the full contents of Chambers' business plan, it is impossible to find out exactly how much, if any, was copied. If very specific and detailed sections were copied, a claim for infringement may be sustainable. However, if only the idea of using the spaces to generate income was taken, that would not be enough.
The general basis of the idea itself is not novel, in that TfL have found ways to exploit their ghost stations before. Tours of some of the disused tube stations, notably Aldwych and part of Charing Cross that is no longer accessible to the public, have been organised a number of times. The stations have also been used as the set for many films, for instance in Skyfall. However, even on the basis that TfL had access to Chambers' business plan, there may not have been any copying. On TfL’s webpage where people are invited to submit a tender, they state that a firm of architects (Carmody Groarke) was commissioned to conduct a commercial feasibility study at the disused Down Street station, focusing on identifying sources of revenue and creating a methodology which could be applied to other sites in the future. This process may have come up with the ideas independently of Chambers’ plan.
TfL customers find increasingly
creative things to do while they await
the arrival of the next train ...
On another note, Ajit Chambers had previously appeared on the Dragon’s Den TV show (series 13, episode 8) to seek £2 million funding for his project. However, he was turned down because he did not have exclusive access to Down Street and his project had not been approved by TfL.
For a list of disused tube stations click here.