Theodore in cyber-gaming first

Theodore Goddard is representing the British Horseracing Board (BHB) on the first case to be brought under the Copyright and Rights in Databases Regulations 1997.

BHB claimed that bookmaker William Hill, which was advised by Allen & Overy (A&O), was infringing its database rights by using it for its online offering.

Companies are allowed to use the BHB's database – which lists detailed information about horses, breeding, owners, meetings and so forth – but for a fee.

William Hill pays for its retail and tele-betting services. However, it decided that as the company was using only a small element of the database for the online venture – the list of horses running at particular races – it should not be eligible to pay.

But the court disagreed, stating that the database was created through significant investment by the BHB and race details still needed considerable verification by the body before they could be distributed.

Therefore its database right was infringed and William Hill would have to pay for the service.

Theodore Goddard has been instructed by the BHB for several years although this is the first major piece of intellectual property (IP) litigation it has undertaken on its behalf.

Head of IP Hamish Porter led the case. He says it will have implications for a range of organisations and their databases.

He says: “The result is quite important in support of all sorts of bodies that compile information. The Premier League, for example, has asserted its rights without having them tested. This will give them an element of comfort.”

But the case is not yet dead. William Hill has been granted leave to appeal, although it is not yet known whether it will take that step.

The bookmaker has also lodged a complaint with the Office of Fair Trading (OFT). To use the BHB's database for its online operations, it must pay 1 per cent of betting turnover which is considerably higher than the set fee it is charged for its retail and tele-betting services.

Theodore Goddard instructed Peter Prescott QC and Lindsay Lane of 8 New Square while A&O instructed Mark Platt-Mills and James Abrahams, also from 8 New Square.