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Matt Tripp’s Sportsbet is currently under legal attack by Tabcorp Holdings and subsidiary firm Tab Limited, which claim that the Northern Territory-based online sportsbetting company has “flagrantly” and in “reckless disregard” infringed Tabcorp’s copyright, according to reports in the business section of The Australian newspaper.

In a claim filed in the Federal Court, the giant Tabcorp accused Sportsbet of copying its information, specifically win dividends and race field information. Loss and damages are alleged but not quantified by Tabcorp in the court filings, which formed part of a preliminary hearing. The parties will return to court in April with a view to a full hearing in September 2009. Tabcorp has also claimed that Sportsbet “has made, and is likely to make, substantial profits” from the alleged infringement.

Sportsbet’s barrister, Tim North SC, told Federal Court Judge Dennis Cowdroy that his client had concerns about the way the statement of claim had been structured because Tabcorp was using terms such as “race field information” but was saying that those terms did not have the same meaning as contained in New South Wales legislation.

“(Tab Limited) came into being in or about 1997, at which stage agreements were entered into with the relevant controlling bodies, and we perceived that (NSW) state as well, through an agreement that in fact there would be no claim for any intellectual property rights including copyright in the very race … information which is the subject of the current claim,” North said. He intimated that Sportsbet may request that part of the claims be struck out.

Richard Cobden SC, representing Tabcorp, said the case would involve “us putting on evidence about the way in which we create our copyright works, the labour and skill that is involved.

“A very important issue … is how precisely the respondent creates the tabulated material that we say infringes our works by reproducing them either in whole or in substantial part,” he said.

Sportsbet director Nick Tyshing told The Australian that his company would vigorously defend the case.

Just over a year ago, in January 2008, there was speculation that Tabcorp was applying for a Northern Territory licence and could be interested in acquiring Sportsbet. A figure of A$100 million was rumoured to be the possible consideration; at that time Sportsbet had reported FY 2007 turnover of $1.5 billion. The Northern Territory sportsbetting company recently acquired a substantial share in I.A.S., effectively short-circuiting Centrebet’s hostile takeover attempt on that company.

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