Issue 5, 20th Febuary 1996: European Databases
ExNet On-line: Law


European links, law, and lawyers---on and off the Net

By Sonya Clarke.

Editorial, Topical, Search Tools, Journals, Bodies, Back Issues, Icons, Other.

[Computing, Law, Science and Technology, SciFi, Sport, The Unexplained, UP]


The cross-over of accountancy firms into law is well under way, with the recent announcements by Price Waterhouse, Arthur Andersen and Ernst & Young of their plans to compete for legal business.

In Barclays Bank plc v RBS Advanta a UK court constructed the UK Trade Marks Act 1994, which implemented the EU Directive harmonising European trade mark laws, to allow the use of trade marks in comparative advertising, providing the use of the marks is in line with honest practices. The Act does not permit unlimited ``knocking-copy.''

The Legal 500 and Law Firms in Europe are now available on the Internet; follow this link to visit the site.

European Databases

The European Commission views the harmonisation of intellectual property laws in the European Community as vital to the success of the single market since a universal system of IP protection will encourage cross-border investment. One of the efforts to extend this harmonisation is the extension of copyright and other industrial property rights to databases, which are increasingly significant in the so-called ``information society,'' contained in the draft directive on the Protection of Databases. On its second reading in December 1995, the European Parliament approved the common position reached last year by the Internal Market Council of the European Commission. The Directive is expected to be formally adopted by the Council early this year, and the draft stipulates that Member States must implement the Directive by the beginning of 1998.

Databases take a considerable amount of time to develop but are inadequately protected by national IP legislation and are easy to access and copy. The Directive has the dual aim of preventing copying to encourage investment, and to protect users' interests. As well as affording databases copyright protection, the Directive will protect the economic investment that is required to compile a database but that is not protected by copyright.

The Directive defines a database as an electronic or paper-based collection of data, works or other material, and the materials necessary for working the collection such as an index or system of presentation. The definition does not apply to computer programs used to make the database, which may be protected under the EC Directive on the Legal Protection of Computer Programs.

The contents of databases will continue to be protected by national copyright law. The Directive gives EC-wide copyright protection to the structure of databases. The creator of a database (or his/her employer) will have automatic right to carry out or authorise the reproduction, processing, translation or distribution of the structure of the database, and to provide services associated with these activities that copyright protection covers.

The Directive also provides exclusive economic protection by outlawing unauthorised extraction or utilisation of the entirety or a substantial part of the database by a third party. This right of the creator of a database is independent of the copyright protection of the structure of the database. Even if that structure does not have copyright protection, these ``sui generis'' rights will apply. Infringement of the rights may occur without any actual physical act of copying, unlike infringement of copyright. This duration of the rights is 15 years and may be renewed when substantial reinvestment occurs.

The protection of the Directive is available within the EC to creators who are EC nationals, or companies and undertakings based in the EC. It may be extended in the future to non-EC countries that reciprocate by giving EC databases a similar level of protection. Following implementation, European protection of databases under the Directive will be much broader than elsewhere. The United States, for example, will only allow copyright protection in factual material if that material is original. The copyright protection of databases in Europe extends to structure, contents (under national law) and is complemented by the sui generis rights. This indicates that the reciprocity provisions of the Directive will be of limited impact unless other jurisdictions advance their own database protection to the same level as Europe. There is a considerable argument for non-discriminatory protection for databases in Europe regardless of origin, but the Directive has not been amended to this effect.

As with other IP rights, a database creator with rights under the Directive cannot use them to exclude European competition law to the level that consumers are prejudiced and the use of such rights is abusing a dominant position in the market place.


Yugoslavia's War Crimes Tribunal (article on legal implications), Lawlinks (topical law materials by subject).
Search Tools (search by word)
WebCrawler, Yahoo, Lycos, InfoSeek.
Enter search keywords for Lycos:
Journals and Magazines
European Law Journal from the University of Florence, putting European Union law in its social, cultural and political context. Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, Journal of Current Legal Issues (Newcastle University).
The Centre for Commercial Law, European Information Sources, Ernst & Young (accountants and lawyers), Europa (information on the European Union), European Parliament (complete with maps, a history, and a description of its powers), Global Arbitration Mediation Association (legal forms and links to other legal sites), Intelligence and Counterintelligence Homepage (your guide to intelligence organisations the world over), International Bureau of Chambers of Commerce Electronic Silk Road and International Business Network (a ``global trade route dedicated to the exchange of business information and the facilitation of international trade''), Law Info (legal marketing service on the Web), The Law Society (professional body for lawyers in England and Wales), Lexis-Nexis (law-information services), Price Waterhouse (accountants and lawyers), Sweet & Maxwell (including the Crown Court Alerting System and case extracts), UK `Open Government' Server (CCTA Government Information Service), US House of Representatives Law Library (an unpredictable selection of sources---the UK Library ranges from the Magna Carta to transcripts of Neville Chamberlain's Poland speeches in 1939).
Back Issues
1996 January: 4 (Trademark) 1995 December: 3 (Legal, Decent Honest and Better?) November: 2 (Unfair Dismissal), October: 1 (Software Patents).
Other links
Advertising Law Internet Site (with a US bias, run by Arent Fox), The Clearinghouse for Law Resources on the Internet, The Economist Home Page (articles from current issue and other Economist Group sites), Jeffrey Dahmer's Brain (complete transcript of the battle between criminal psychology research and Dahmer's dad for anyone suffering OJ withdrawal), Law Enforcement Home Page (amusing examples of American neuroses), Legal 500 and Law Firms in Europe, Legal Insanity Homepage (some of the weakest jokes on the Internet, even for lawyers, by Pinellas County Judge Steven Rushing), LexNET (Maltese law resources), Yahoo law section.

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Copyright (c) ESL 1996.