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Database Protection for Companies - Football Dataco Back in Court!

Written by Samuel Martin on 12 April 2013

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Protection for information obtained via a company’s database has been a somewhat unsatisfactory area of law. This is arguably because most databases fail to fall within the scope of copyright law due to their lack or originality, creativity, personal expression or opinion.

This problem has been highlighted in recent years by the technological advances of the compilation and extraction of the information from online databases.

To combat this issue the EU have offered further protection to companies by their willingness to find  a ‘sui generis’ database right to protect companies. This has the effect of offering protection to a company’s investment of time, money and skill when creating databases.

Football Dataco’s database includes up to date information on live English premier league football matches which was used by Stan James via Sportradar Ltd to keep the website users up to date with the latest scores. This database in the case of Football Dataco v Yahoo! (C-604/10) was held to escape the realm of copyright law for lacking a ‘personal touch’.

However Football Dataco benefitted from a ‘sui generis’ database right in its most recent appearance in court in the joint cases of Football Dataco Ltd v Sportradar GmbH and Football Dataco Ltd v Stan James Abington Ltd [2013] EWCA Civ 27 when it successfully filed a claim for the reutilisation of the information on their database against both of the parties.

The court held the opinion that Football Dataco should be offered protection for their substantial investment in obtaining, verifying and presenting its contents of its database.

These joint cases left room for an analysis of the location of infringement. It is predicted that the EU will not restrict the location of the infringement to just the originating member state where the database information was compiled.  This will stop companies escaping liability by locating their server outside of the member state and therefore undermine the ‘sui generis’ database right of a company.

Although a database right is separate from copyright protection, this latest Football Dataco case is evidence that companies can use this database right to help protect their intellectual property.

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