[co-author: Ashley Kerr]
On 8 May 2014, Sports Data Pty Ltd (Sports Data), NRL’s previous official supplier of statistics, filed an interlocutory applications against Prozone Sports Australia Pty Ltd (Prozone), the new supplier of statistics to the NRL. Sports Data alleged that during late 2013 and early 2014, Prozone used or copied the template or set of input criteria that it had developed over many years in order to provide detailed statistical analysis to the NRL.
During proceedings, Sports Data stated it did not know who provided the information to Prozone, when it was provided or the form in which it was provided. Additionally, Sports Data had no direct evidence of the fact that the information was ever provided. Nonetheless, Sports Data was adamant that Prozone, who had no previous experience in rugby league statistics, could not have developed its template so quickly without having access to Sports Data’s intellectual property.
The interlocutory orders sought to restrain Prozone from using, copying or dealing with Sports Data’s confidential information and infringing its copyright. In a judgment handed down in the Federal Court of Australia, the interlocutory relief sought by Sports Data was refused.
In order to secure the interlocutory injunction, Sports Data was required to show:
that there was a serious question to be tried or that there was a probability that at trial they would have been successful;
that they will suffer irreparable injury for which damages would not be adequate compensation; and
that the balance of convenience favoured the granting of the injunction.
Finding of the court
In refusing the application for interlocutory relief, the judge was of the opinion that there was insufficient evidence that the information on Sports Data’s database was disclosed on a confidential basis. Furthermore, there was no suggestion, let alone evidence, that Sports Data imparted the alleged confidential information to Prozone in circumstances imparting an obligation of confidence or that Prozone had even received the relevant database tables or complete list of input criteria. As such, the judge was unable to conclude that Sports Data had established a prima facie case of breach of confidence.
While Sports Data also brought a claim of relief for infringement of copyright, it was found that copyright infringement was unlikely as the substantial parts of the works of Prozone were not substantially similar to that of Sports Data. Sports Data further failed to satisfy the court that there would be irreparable harm if the injunction were not granted, or that damages would not be an adequate remedy. As such, even if Sports Data had made out a prima facie case for interlocutory relief, its application would have been refused as the balance of convenience did not favour the grant of the injunction.
Lessons to be learnt
With Sports Data claiming it will go into administration if the injunction was not granted, it is uncertain whether Sports Data will pursue a further claim against Prozone. Nonetheless, these proceedings have highlighted the importance for companies to protect its intellectual property. Sports Data have learnt the risks of disclosing its intellectual property without clear confidentiality requirements or copyright protection. As we see an increase in the amount of companies whose intellectual property is its greatest asset, it is becoming increasingly important to ensure that their rights are fully protected before any commercial activities commence.