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Wednesday, 13 July 2005


The Court of Appeal's ruling in British Horseracing Board v William Hill Organization Ltd has just been posted on BAILII. The decision, given by Lord Justice Jacob (with whom Lords Justices Clarke and Pill agreed), was that William Hill's appeal had to be allowed in the light of the European Court of Justice's ruling in Case C-203/02 .

In short, the BHB -- the governing authority of the British racing industry -- complained that its database right had been infringed. The BHB maintained a computerised collection of information (the BHB database) which was constantly updated with the latest information, including racing information. William Hill provided betting services over the internet. The BHB objected that William Hill made unlicensed use of that data in its internet business. At trial, Laddie J upheld the claim and granted BHB a permanent injunction against infringement. William Hill appealed to the Court of Appeal, which referred to the European Court of Justice various questions on the meaning of Art.7 of Directive 96/9, which states:

"Member States shall provide for a right for the maker of a database which shows that there has been qualitatively and/or quantitatively a substantial investment in either the obtaining, verification or presentation of the contents to prevent extraction and/or re-utilization of the whole or of a substantial part, evaluated qualitatively and/or quantitatively, of the contents of that database.".
BHB submitted that its database came within the right described in Art.7(1), while William Hill was adamant that it did not. After the ECJ's ruling, which was favourable to the position taken by William Hill, the case returned to the Court of Appeal, which ruled that, so far as BHB's database consisted of the officially identified names of riders and runners in horse races, it was not within the sui generis right of Art.7(1). The same reasoning applied where BHB published lists of provisional runners prior to final declarations as to who was running. There too, what was published was different in character from a mere list of gathered information: it was a list of the horses the claimant had accepted as qualifying to race.

The IPKat senses a certain reluctance on the Court of Appeal's part, but wonders whether there's much legal scope for an appeal to the Horse of Lords ...

BHB's reaction here
Reports here from the BBC and Sporting Life


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