Olswang acted for Stan James Plc, Stan James (Abingdon) Limited, Enetpulse Aps and Yahoo! UK Limited in a court case concerning intellectual property rights in football fixture lists prepared for the English and Scottish football leagues.
The litigation was commenced four years ago by the English and Scottish professional football leagues, their licensing agent, Football DataCo and its sub-contractor PA Sport. Following the European Court of Justice's decision in March, the claimants conceded that they could not continue to assert intellectual property rights in the fixture lists. This week, the case reached its final stage with the Court of Appeal issuing a sealed Order declaring that fixture lists are not protected by database copyright or database rights in the EU.
As a consequence, it is now no longer necessary to pay a licence fee to use or reproduce the fixture lists in the EU.
The Court of Appeal also ordered that Football DataCo, PA Sport and the Football League Limited to carry the following message on their respective websites for a month in order to dispel any public uncertainty as to the legal position:
"Following the decision of the Court of Justice of the European Union dated 1 March 2012 in Case C-604/10 Football Dataco Ltd v Yahoo! UK Ltd & Others [link to a copy of the Judgment], it has been determined that neither copyright nor sui generis database rights subsist in the EU in fixture lists for the English and Scottish football leagues."
Such notices can be found at the following links: http://www.football-dataco.com/, http://www.pressassociation.com/sport.html and http://www.football-league.co.uk/page/Home/0,,10794,00.html "
Historically, FDC charged licence fees to third parties such as media organisations, bookmakers and websites in exchange for permission to use or reproduce the fixture lists. Each football club was entitled to appoint one "Nominated Fanzine" that would only be required to pay a nominal fee of £1.00 +VAT for a licence to reproduce the fixture lists for their club. Other fan sites or blogs had to pay the commercial going rate to publish fixture details.
Tim Cook, General Counsel and Company Secretary at Stan James Plc commented: "We have had to defend Football DataCo's misguided fixture lists claim since 2008 and are pleased to see the Court of Appeal declare that there are no rights in fixture lists in the EU. We continue to defend the second arm of Football DataCo's claim, in relation to live data, which has potentially huge implications for our industry and consumers of live football data within the EU."
Paul Stevens, Partner at Olswang, commented: "Prior to this ruling, football fan sites and fanzines were required to pay the full licence fee, which was particularly onerous for small, non-commercial outlets. The outcome will come as a huge relief to fan sites, bloggers and fanzines who will be able to freely reproduce the Fixture Lists for the benefit of their club's supporters."
Stevens continued: "Olswang acted for YahooUK!, Stan James and Enetpulse Aps on the football fixture case since its inception. We were delighted to secure a victory for the defendants on a European level last March and we are pleased the national leg of this case has also come to a positive end in the UK."
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