Stan James wins latest battle over alleged infringement of football match data rights

Out-Law News | 20 Mar 2014 | 1:07 pm | 3 min. read

Football authorities in England and Scotland have lost the latest round of a legal battle with a gambling operator over the alleged infringement of their intellectual property rights.

The High Court in London has refused the sports governing bodies' permission to amend a previous claim they had previously lodged against Stan James over the company's alleged infringement of their database rights, according to the judgment published by legal information provider Lawtel and seen by Out-Law.com. 

The authorities wanted the UK courts to rule on whether Stan James is jointly liable for the infringement of their rights by another company, Sportradar. However, Mr Iain Purvis QC, sitting as a deputy judge in the High Court, ruled that the authorities' application was "an abuse of process". It said the application to amend the claims the authorities wished to raise against Stan James could have been raised earlier in the legal process and said there was "no real excuse" why it had not been.

The bid to amend the claims against Stan James was led by Football Dataco, which commercialises match data on behalf of the football authorities, together with the English Premier League and Football League bodies, the Scottish Football League and the Press Association. 

Intellectual property law specialist Emily Swithenbank of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law.com, said that the rejection of the authorities' application was unsurprising since it had been made, without good reason, at the stage of an appeal to the Supreme Court.  Swithenbank added, though, there was still much left to resolve in the dispute between the football bodies and Stan James.

Under the EU's Database Directive database creators that have made "qualitatively or quantitatively a substantial investment in either the obtaining, verification or presentation of the contents" can "prevent extraction and/or re-utilization of the whole or a substantial part, evaluated qualitatively and/or quantitatively, of the contents of that database".

EU law only allows for rights holders to enforce their 'sui generis' database rights against unauthorised "extraction" or "acts of re-utilisation which take place in that territory".

Football Dataco contracted the Press Association (PA) to compile match data on its behalf. The data was contained in PA's 'Football Live' service and was available for others to use under licence. 

Football Dataco took issue with a rival information service Sportradar provided. Sportradar's 'Live Scores' service, which displayed certain information about football matches, was available to users of Stan James' website. 

Football Dataco sued Sportradar for re-utilising data from the PA-operated database and has also claimed Stan James was liable for infringement of its database rights by providing links to Sportradar's content on its website. In addition, Football Dataco has also sought to hold Stan James responsible for the infringing activity it has claimed Stan James' customers engaged in when they clicked on the links and the content appeared on their screens. 

According to the High Court's new judgment, Sportradar has "already consented to judgment for the direct acts of infringement" following a ruling in 2012 by the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU). The CJEU ruled that national courts across the EU have jurisdiction to rule that a company is guilty of primary infringement of database rights if there is "evidence" that the publisher intended for the information to be viewed in that individual country. 

The High Court and Court of Appeal have both previously ruled that Stan James is liable for infringement of Football Dataco's database rights by Sportradar, although that finding relates only to a previous version of Sportradar's Live Scores service. The Supreme Court is set to hear an appeal from Stan James this summer on the point of whether its customers can be said to be committing database rights infringement and, if so, whether it can be held liable for that activity. 

The separate issue of whether Stan James committed database rights infringement by putting up links to Sportradar's Live Scores service on its website has yet to come to trial.

"The judgment is an example of the robust approach courts will take post-Jackson reforms to parties in dispute litigating on their own timetable where there is disregard for the courts' own case management, even if there is a chance that the case they wish to bring could be successful," Swithenbank said. 

"Despite the setback for Football Dataco in this case, however, there are still a number of major points still to be resolved in this dispute, particularly around whether the acts of Stan James' customers in clicking the links on the operator's website are sufficient to be classed as an infringement of database rights," she added.