Yorkshire’s police forces agreed lucrative multi-million-pound contracts with a translation service that has since been ordered to pay damages to a firm after diverting its profits.
Language Empire Limited was ordered in September to pay £142,044 to Leeds-based claimant the Big Word, which counts various Government departments among its global clientele.
Following an Intellectual Property Enterprise Court trial, a judge ruled that the defendant, based in Rochdale, made “significant sales” by converting business enquiries from two of its websites which looked like they were connected with the Big Word.
In a published court judgement, Judge Melissa Clarke assessed that this could have occurred from June 1, 2014 to March 31, 2017 – the day before North, West, South and Humberside Police began contracts with the firm for translation, interpretation and transcription services on April 1.
The Big Word had made its claim on March 10, 2017 alleging the defendants had, by setting up the websites, deliberately infringed trademarks and passed off the sites as connected to its own “as part of a deliberate search optimisation scheme set up by them to divert potential customers,” the judgement reads.
After these websites were taken down, the Big Word’s actual sites went from receiving 6,500 hits per month to 10,000, according to Mark Daly, whom Judge Clarke described as a “palpably honest witness” for the claimant.
Although Language Empire’s managing director Yasar Zaman denied the claimant’s version of events, Judge Clarke said that his evidence was a “tangled mass of contradictions, inconsistencies, unlikelihoods, implausibilities and untruths”.
West Yorkshire Police’s contract with Language Empire is worth an estimated £2,506,000 over four years, with the other forces’ contracts at £1,788,000 combined over the same period.
SYP’s contract is worth an estimated £783,000, with HP’s at £515,000 and NYP’s at £490,000.
These were arranged by the forces’ Regional Procurement team.
A joint statement from the forces reads: “In light of the recent news regarding Language Empire Ltd, we are currently reviewing the information presented and our position in relation to the service.”
Language Empire said the court action related to issues “initiated by a sub-contractor”.
A spokeswoman said: “On the advice of our legal team, we have submitted an appeal on the judge’s ruling and we are now in the early stages of that process.
“Following the case, we have thoroughly reviewed our policies and procedures to ensure such issues cannot occur again in the future.
“We are currently working closely with all of our clients to reassure them that these issues are historic and do not represent our values as a business.
“All public sector work has been secured after rigorous procurement exercises, and we continue to deliver the high-quality services expected by our clients.”
Larry Gould, CEO of the Big Word, said: "This was a shocking event, firstly through the theft of our identity but also after the site was taken down the amount of traffic visiting thebigword website increased by 50%.
“We’re delighted with the Judge’s assessment."
He said the company is trusted around the world and the integrity of the brand remains intact.
"We continue to provide the respected service for which we have become known," he said.