Unibet to Champion Fight Against Sports Ownership Right

28th October 2009 9:20 am GMT

Unibet is considering fighting on in its epic court case against the Fédération Française de Tennis (FFT), which concluded with the decision of the French Court of Appeal two weeks ago to impose a fine of€1.3m against the online gaming and betting operator.

Unibet lost to the FFT in Paris but is evaluating whether to take the case to the French Supreme Court or seek a referral to the European Court of Justice.

Unibet's lawyer, Paul Van den Bulck of McGuire Woods, told Gaming Intelligence: "We are reviewing the decision. There are a lot of decisions about trade marks and gambling that have to be analysed."

The Court of Appeal decision has split legal opinion in France with some siding with the gaming industry and others supporting the rights of sports organisations.

The FFT successfully argued that it has a monopoly over the exploitation rights of its event. This, it argued, was just a clarification of the existing Code de Sport, a law that Unibet believes was only supposed to cover audio-visual rights.

In effect the ruling creates a new sports betting right, which was due to come in to law as part of the liberalisation of France's gaming regulations in the new gambling act.

Unibet was also found to have infringed the FFT's trademark, the latest in a long line of sports organisation's claims against bookmakers. Unibet has already fought off claims by football clubs Juventus and Paris St Germain.

"It's not the use of a trademark. It's the use of a name. If I'm a broker and I recommend the purchase of Microsoft stock, I have to quote their name," commented Van den Bulck.

Fabienne Fajgenbaum of French law firm Nataf & Fajgenbaum fought the case successfully but was unavailable for comment.

For more analysis of the case and the impact on the industry, see our special report next week.

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