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24th February, 2016

In the case of Global Yellow Pages Ltd v Promedia Directories Pte Ltd [2016] SGHC 09, the Singapore High Court dismissed Plaintiff’s claim and the Defendant had succeeded in its counterclaim for groundless threat of suit.

Global Yellow Pages Ltd (hereinafter referred to as “the Plaintiff”) publishes telephone directories in Singapore. The Plaintiff’s online directory is maintained at the URL http://www.yellowpages.com.sg. It is built around a search engine containing an online database.

Promedia Directories Pte Ltd (hereinafter referred to as “Defendant”) is also a Singapore company produce telephone directories.

The Plaintiff submitted that the copyright was infringed by directories produced or maintained by the Defendant, which involves the Defendant’s printed directory, digital directory and online directory maintained at the URL http://www.thegreenbook.com.

The Plaintiff pointed out that there was “substantial similarities”   between the listings in the Defendant’s directories and also “fingerprints” of copying. The Plaintiff found large number of seeds found in Defendant’s directories which has been copied from Plaintiff’s directories.

Meanwhile, the Defendant argued that copyright does not subsist in the Plaintiff’s directories, the enhanced data or the seeds, either in whole or in part. In fact the Plaintiff’s online directory constantly changes and there is no fixation. Hence there is no copyright infringement. The Defendant disagree that it was a copyright “similarity in content is not the same as similarity in expression”.

The Defendant submitted four counterclaim defences for copyright infringement involve fair dealing; publication of the Plaintiff’s enhanced data or listings were in the public interest; the Plaintiff’s claim is barred by laches, delay and acquiescence and the infringement was, in any event, innocent.

The Singapore High Court considered copyright infringement between the Plaintiff and the Defendant. The Defendant counterclaims under Section 200 of the Copyright Act (hereinafter referred to as “the Act”) for the making of groundless threats of legal proceedings. A similar conclusion was reached by the Court of Appeal in RecordTV™. These decisions support the Defendant’s submission that a case of groundless threats has been made out.

The Plaintiff denied and argued that the relief should be granted in the event if the claims failed and the threats were unjustified.

The High Court held that the Plaintiff did not dispute threat of copyright infringement in the letter to Defendant did it appear to dispute the alleged contents of the threats made in those letters. In the context of section 200 of Copyright Act, the word “unjustifiable” appears in Section 200(1)(a) of the Act, in relation to an order for declaratory relief.

The judge emphasis that there are no arguments made by the Plaintiff that there was a dispute liability for groundless threats. The Defendant’s counterclaim under Section 200 of the Act succeeded. The Defendant is entitled to the declaratory relief sought as well as an injunction in terms.