In Belgian the court of appeal has supported the request of bookmakers in a decision that now makes it possible for them when accepting bets, to a use sports organization's name and event. Prior to this ruling, it was the position of the sports organizations to charge a fee to be paid by the gambling operators every time they used the sports group's names or event tags.
A few of the sports clubs involved in this litigation included FC Porto, Juventus, and PSV Eindhoven, all of which had taken online betting operators William Hill, Bwin, and Unibet to court as a part of a disagreement regarding the use of the club names on online gambling websites. It was the decision of the appeals court in Liège that since online gambling is a separate business activity, the sport organizers had no right to charge a fee when their names were being used. The sports clubs were seeking compensation in the form of 2 million euros from the online gambling site operators of gambling companies in addition to a court order that would put a stop to the operators’ activities. The sports clubs also attempted to get the court to set fines of up to 50,000 euros for each violation of the sports clubs supposed image rights.
The gambling sites were represented by the lawyer Paul van der Bulk, who is a partner at McGuire Woods. Van der Bulk says that what the sports clubs wanted was money for using their trademarks. He also said that the court decided that the activities of a sports team is one activity and gambling is another separate activity. He explained that it comes under the principle of freedom of commerce, saying that as an example, it would be similar to a restaurant near the Le Mans circuit or in another example, an airline during the World Cup using sport clubs names and thereby obtaining an obvious benefit but still not being connected enough to the sport to require a license for such activity.
There are similar cases that are presently being decided in France that may or may not be helped by this decision according to the defense lawyer. Konrad Sveceny, the investor relations manager at Bwin, said regarding this decision that his company is very happy that this is now off the table. He says that in spite of the fact that the case is being appealed there is no need for it to go any further. He says that Bwin views itself as being a partner with sports organizations and a contributor to sports.
Posted on: August 1, 2009