Sui Generis Database Right (SGDR)

What is the Sui Generis Database Right (SGDR) and how does it relate to other rights in Databases?

For legal purposes, a ‘database’ means “a collection of independent works, data or other materials arranged in a systematic or methodical way and individually accessible by electronic or other means.”

Databases are automatically protected by law if:

  1. the selection or arrangement of the contents are the author’s own intellectual creation – in which case copyright protection applies to the structure of the database (not to its content); or
  2. they qualify for a special IP right (called the sui generis database right (SGDR)) because there has been a substantial investment in obtaining, verifying or presenting the contents of a database (e.g. a database of poetry titles). Importantly, the investment in creating data does not count towards the threshold for SGDR protection. This may be quite confusing (especially because the difference between creating and obtaining data should not be read with the eyes of a scientists, i.e. it is not an epistemological issue, but with the eyes of competition law, i.e. the goal is to limit as much as possible so called single source databases). At present time, the best we know about how to distinguish creation from obtaining is in the field of sporting events: match fixtures are created data, therefore sports organisers do not have a SGDR in that. Live sporting event data (e.g. who scores at what minutes) are obtained data and therefore can be protected by SGDR. The SGDR has been heavily criticised especially from an innovation and scientific point of view, but as for now it is part of EU law and the above example is as accurate as it can be right now.

The content of a database can also be composed of copyright protected works in the first place, such as a database of scholarly articles. However, in this case it is not the copyright in the database that extends to the content, there are simply two independent copyrights in the same database: the copyright in the database structure if it is sufficiently original, and the (independent) copyright in the element constituting the database. In addition, there may also be a SGDR right in the substantial investment in the database. The latter protects the database from substantial extractions, therefore effectively offering a form of protection to data that would otherwise not be protected.

In conclusion, a database may be protected by up to 3 different rights that regulate 3 different uses. They may belong to 3 different authors/owners and follow 3 different rules in terms of exceptions and limitations. Easy isn’t it?

Who owns SGDR?

SGDR is owned by the maker of the database, which is usually the person or entity who bears the financial risk. Financial risk in academic research. In academic research the financial risk of projects is usually borne by the institution. It is therefore possible that the SGDR in a database produced during research may be owned by the institution, even where copyright arising in the database may be owned by the researcher. However, contracts among the different parties (funding grants, universities IP policies, researchers employment contracts, etc.) may provide differently.

It is important to check the terms of any funding or collaboration agreement to see whether ownership of the deliverables is specified.

How long does the SGDR last?

15 years, renewable if a new substantial investment is made.

What can SGDR owners do?

The SGDR gives the right holder the right to perform or to authorise the extraction (copying) of substantial amount of data, or repeated extraction of insubstantial amount, and their reuse therefore effectively extending protection to the data.

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