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DATA NEWS: Thomson Local settles data dispute for £47.5k

Thomson Local has received an out-of-court settlement amounting to £47,500 from an unnamed list broker for abuse of its B2B lists.

The broker allegedly supplied unwitting customers with out-of-date Thomson Local data for direct marketing purposes, breaching the company's copyright and database rights.

"The company concerned obtained and sold Thomson Local data without authorisation," explains Thomson Local product and marketing director Gary Brown. "This is completely unacceptable. Our data is an extremely valuable commodity and we will protect its integrity fiercely."

The company preferred to settle the matter out of court, as this was the more ‘sensible' option, according to Thomson Local internal communications officer Jenni Wheller. "The ultimate objective in any enforcement of our intellectual rights is to stop the infringing activity and obtain undertakings to the effect that it will not re-occur," says Wheller, stating that this was achieved. "The next objective is to obtain compensation if it is believed that the company has suffered loss.  If we can settle without the costs and uncertainty of going to court, we will," she says.

Thomson Local is able to claim copyright for its database under the Copyright, Designs & Patents Act 1988. In accordance with this legislation, the company can take action to prevent unauthorised copying and other use of the database.

"We have a duty not only to protect this quality, but our existing licensees who have recognised its value and obtained it through the correct process," adds Brown.

Vic Godding, chairman of the Direct Marketing Association's B2B Council, speculates that the event is an isolated case. "Rather than being a straightforward issue of copyright, this strikes me as a continuous misuse of data," says Godding.

In 2003, Thomson Local was awarded £1.3 million in damages in a High Court judgment against Peter Hutcheon and his company Planet Telecom. Hutcheon was convicted of infringing Thomson Local's rights and ‘stealing' the company's records over a five-year period.