What's it about?
Sports Information Services Limited (SIS), who had an exclusive contractual right to collect, analyse and sell information to off-site bookmakers for the calculation of various betting prices, was subject to a claim after SIS was seen to continue operating in the market after expiry of its contract with Arena Leisure Limited (Arena).
SIS' replacement, The Racing Partnership (TRP) and Arena initially brought claims against SIS and 5 other defendants. With the other claims settled, only the claim against SIS proceeded to trial. This was for conspiracy and breaches of copyright, database rights, contract and confidence relating to the use of horseracing data.
Why does it matter?
The judgment outlines the different types of claim that might be available to businesses in the data collection and distribution industry. Specifically, on the individual claims, the Court found that:
Whilst selecting the specific on-site bookmakers whose prices were to be used as a basis for calculating betting prices could amount to sufficient skill, labour or judgement, the end calculation is pure routine work incapable of attracting copyright protection.
Mere consulting and adjusting of prices to move them closer to TRP's prices did not amount to breach of copyright by SIS. In any case, TRP had only provided evidence of price movements for four horses, which was considered insufficient to evidence a claim for infringement.
- Database rights
It was accepted that TRP had a database right in the information that was used for the calculation of betting prices and relating to the racecourses both before and on race days.
SIS advanced that: (1) it merely referred to the betting prices, but not to the underlying database; (2) even if the prices formed part of the database, SIS consulted the prices without extracting or re-utilising them; and (3) the extent of the consultation was insufficient to amount to a substantial part of the database. All of these points were accepted by the High Court.
After expiry of its contract, SIS obtained data from Tote (Successor Company) Limited (Tote) who in the past had a statutory right to obtain information for pool betting, but not fixed odds purposes. As Tote's rights stemmed from statute, it was not subject to Arena's entry terms and was therefore able to collect data and disclose it to third parties, whether for pool betting purposes or otherwise.
- Breach of confidence
Even though Tote had the right to disclose data to SIS, the Court found that SIS should have appreciated the commercial sensitivity and value of the data. As such, a reasonable person in SIS' position should have known that the information was subject to an obligation of confidence, disclosure of which would be unauthorised. Accordingly, SIS was liable in breach of confidence.
- Conspiracy by unlawful means
In order to succeed, the claimants were required to prove that SIS took unlawful action with the intention of causing damage. TRP relied on breach of confidence as its unlawful act. This brought up an inconsistency in the two knowledge tests – a claim for breach of confidence applies an objective ("reasonable person") test whilst conspiracy requires actual knowledge, or the turning of a blind eye to the unlawful act.
Whilst TRP had been successful in its claim for breach of confidence, the Court was unconvinced that SIS had actual knowledge or turned a blind eye to the fact that the disclosure by Tote was unauthorised.
The judgment outlines the importance of obtaining sufficient evidence of infringement in intellectual property cases. It also serves as a warning to any businesses operating in markets with data sharing agreements. It is vital to investigate the contractual or statutory disclosure rights and any statements made during negotiations.
For further information on this or any other IP related matter please contact Triin Ungert on 0161 934 6170.