Court overturns restriction on selling NBA basketball game data
NEW YORK–In late January, the U.S. Court of Appeals in New York (2nd Cir.) found that a sports score reporting service did not violate the National Basketball Association’s rights to control that information.
The decision reverses a lower court’s ruling that stopped Motorola, Inc. and Sports Team Analysis and Tracking Systems (“STATS”) from offering their SportsTrax paging service, which provides constant updates of professional basketball scores on a special pager. The federal District Court in New York City ruled in July that publishing professional basketball scores was a misappropriation of NBA property. The court also found that the two companies were not liable for copyright infringement. The scores were factual information that cannot be copyrighted, the court held.
The NBA had sued Motorola and STATS in March, claiming the companies were engaging in commercial misappropriation under New York law and violations of federal copyright law. In addition, the league sued on false advertising and false designations of origin claims, because the product was originally marketed as “NBA SportsTrax.”
A separate suit between the NBA and America Online, which published game information provided by STATS, was filed by the online service in Virginia but removed to New York.
Motorola and STATS started selling the SportsTrax service in January 1996. The most advanced option displays the teams currently playing, score changes, which team has control of the ball, whether the team is in the process of free-throws, and how much time remains in the game. STATS says it updates the display every few minutes, although towards the end of the first half and end of the game, the updates are more frequent. (NBA v. STATS; Counsel: Herbert Schwartz, New York)