Infringement of intellectual property rights is a common head of cover in various classes of liability policy. Amongst the family of intellectual property rights is one that is less frequently heard of but which is likely to obtain increasing prominence because it protects compilations of data, namely database right.

Database right will protect a database if there has been “a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting” its contents. That right is infringed if a person extracts or reuses all or a substantial part of the contents of the database without the owner’s permission.

In the case of Beechwood House Publishing (t/a Binleys) v (1) Guardian Products Limited (2) Precision Direct Marketing Limited [2011]1, the publisher of a database of GP practices succeeded in its claim that a “substantial part” of the contents of its database had been extracted by a direct marketing company. The decision provides a useful discussion of what will amount to a “substantial” part of a database. The court confirmed that the test is both quantitative and qualitative. The court placed considerable emphasis on the amount of time, money and human effort involved in assembling and updating the database. Consequently, the judge found that a relatively low percentage of the data can amount to a “substantial” part so long as the investment required to obtain this data was considerable. It seems to follow that extracting a relatively small part of a database that is expensive and time consuming to collate will amount to infringement. Conversely, if a database is quite basic and inexpensive to maintain, a much larger part must be extracted to constitute infringement.