Legal protection of databases in the UK
Produced in partnership with Herbert Smith Freehills LLP
Legal protection of databases in the UK

The following IP guidance note Produced in partnership with Herbert Smith Freehills LLP provides comprehensive and up to date legal information covering:

  • Legal protection of databases in the UK
  • Protecting databases
  • What is a database?
  • Traditional copyright in the content of a database
  • Copyright in the structure of a database
  • Sui generis database right
  • Competition issues
  • Prospects of success using 'euro-defences' under Articles 101 and 102
  • Confidential information
  • Database application software
  • more

Protecting databases

Databases, especially electronic databases, have become important tools that drive economic transactions. In the 1990s, uniform and adequate protection for databases in the European internal market was considered necessary to:

  1. harmonise differing levels of protection enjoyed by databases in Member States

  2. drive innovation and investment in information products, especially online database goods and services, and

  3. remedy the 'great imbalance' in the level of investment in the database industry as between Member States and the world's largest database-producing third countries, such as the United States

Moreover, after the standard of originality for copyright was harmonised across the EU, mere 'sweat of the brow' databases, which were not sufficiently creative enough to pass the higher originality threshold for copyright, would have remained unprotected. Such databases were nevertheless economically valuable and were usually put together using considerable effort and investment.

Impetus for the legal protection of such 'sweat of the brow', 'non-creative' databases through a sui generis database right in the EU came with the adoption of new legislation in 1996. There are now three main pieces of legislation relevant to the protection of databases in the UK:

  1. the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988 (CDPA 1988)—the primary statutory source on the law of copyright which provides for the copyright protection of databases

  2. Directive 96/9/EC on the legal protection of databases, 11