Trace Your Case


Ladbroke (Football) Ltd. v. William Hill (Football) Ltd. [1964] 1 W.L.R. 273


  • Whether or to what extent copyright attaches to these coupons? In whole or in part?
  • If the coupons are subject to copyright, has enough copying been done to amount to infringement, and whether it was proper to look at the several parts of the work separately?


  • Copyright protection exists in the betting industry and intellectual property rights should be protected to prevent infringement.


  • Since 1951, the Respondents, who were well-known bookmakers, had sent their customers each week fixed odds football betting coupons arranged in a certain general form. In 1959, the Appellants, who were also bookmakers, started to send out coupons closely resembling the Respondents.
  • A coupon was a sheet of paper on which were printed several lists of forthcoming matches. The Respondents’ coupon contained 16 lists, each with an appropriate name. The Appellants’ coupon contained 15 lists.
  • The lists offered by the Appellants were almost identical to those offered by the Respondents in their corresponding lists.
  • The only differences were that the Appellants devised new headings and they worked out for themselves the different odds offered in respect of the various kinds of bets.
  • The coupons of some 20 other firms in the business were produced at the trial, and, while they have a general similarity, they vary very much like their lists and the variety of bets offered concerning many of the lists. It is not disputed that a vast amount of skill, judgment, experience, and work has gone into building up the Respondents’ coupon.


  • The Court held that the Copyright Act is not concerned with the “originality of ideas”, but with the expression of thought, and, in the case of ‘literary work, with the expression of thought in print or writing.
  • The Originality which is required relates to “the expression of the thought”. As regards compilation, originality is a matter of degree depending on the amount of skill, judgment, or labour that has been involved in making the compilation.
  • The precise amount of knowledge, labour, judgment, or literary skill or taste which the author must bestow to acquire copyright must in each case be very much a question of degree.
  • The Court also held that the extent to which the Appellants copied from the Respondents’ coupon appears to amount to be a very substantial part of the coupon both in quantity and quality. Therefore, there has been an infringement in this case.