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‘Rights Recognition’ Lands Unibet €1.2m French Fine

15th October 2009 7:43 am GMT

Unibet has become the first victim of the highly controversial €˜sports betting right' which is yet to be formally adopted in France, but which has been retroactively applied to the online gaming and betting operator by a Paris court this week. As a result, Unibet must now pay €300,000 to the Roland Garros tennis tournament in recognition of the ownership right, in addition to a further €900,000 in penalties.

The fine was handed down Wednesday by the Court of Appeals of Paris, where Unibet was challenging a May 2008 ruling by the Paris Court of First Instance which barred the company from offering bets on the Roland Garros tournament. (more)

In its ruling Wednesday, the Court of Appeals upheld the lower court's ruling and the original damages assessment of €500,000, but in light of developments in recent days at the French National Assembly, added the further charges of infringement of copyright and infringement of ownership right.

As a result, Unibet must now pay a total of €1.2 million to Roland Garros, €500,000 of which is the original damages claim, plus €300,000 in recognition of ownership right and €400,000 for infringement of copyright.

In a statement issued through the European Gaming and Betting Association, Unibet said it would challenge the ruling.

"We are surprised by this ruling which goes against all existing case law in France and in other European countries," said the EGBA statement.

"For instance, this Court denies the legitimate right for operators to use trademarks as a necessary reference for information purposes. Surprisingly, the Court retroactively applies the very controversial €˜sport betting right', which has yet to be adopted and come into force in France."

"Unibet will examine this ruling and reserves the right to use all means available at national or European level."

Shares in Unibet (Co. Profile) (NASDAQ OMX:UNIB) will commence trading today in Stockholm at SEK197.00 per share.

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