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Who's Suing Whom: Premier League takes on `pirates'

THE PREMIER LEAGUE has taken legal action against a Birmingham based supplier of "pirate" smart-cards, which allow users in Britain to view live Premiership football matches by unscrambling the satellite transmissions intended for the Continent.

The use of so-called pirate equipment to screen live football matches is a cause of huge concern to the Premier League. The equipment allows people to watch the matches in pubs instead of paying to go the match itself. The simultaneous live transmission of such a number of matches also breaks Uefa regulations.

The Football Association, the Premier League and its American affiliate Transworld International have launched legal action against Vision On (Midlands) Limited of Stratford Road, Hall Green, Birmingham.

The League's case is that the sale of the D2MAC card by Vision On constitutes a violation of the League's copyright over the TV rights to the Premiership matches concerned.

The live matches are broadcast by Canal+, which has to use particularly powerful TV signals to cover Norway, Denmark and Sweden. This makes the signals easy to pick up in the UK, with the right equipment.

Vision On contends that the sale of such cards is perfectly legal, and does not just enable people to view football games. It says that over 50 TV channels and hundreds of hours of films are also accessible using its cards.

Although the Birmingham company is still taking legal advice on what response to make, the writ is likely to provoke a bitter row. Alex Rote of Vision On said last Friday that the use of such smart cards only came to a head because Whitbread started using the cards in its pubs to show live Premiership matches. Vision On is incensed that it has been "singled out" for legal action.

A spokeswoman for Whitbread said: "From our point of view there's no legal reason why we shouldn't show the (Premiership) games. They are available in a number of our pubs. The entertainment package is down to the individual pub to decide."

The Premier League is taking no action against Whitbread. A spokesman for the Premier League said it was unable to comment as it had issued a writ against Vision On last week.

PFIZER is trying to force a London firm called "Viagraman" to change its name, in order to avoid confusion with the American pharmaceutical giant's anti-impotence drug.

Pfizer is also seeking an injunction to stop Viagraman from selling any of the Viagra drug.

Viagraman is registered care of Leanard & Finn, of Brentmead House, Britannia Road, London, and is headed by Jack Garvin, of Hendon, north London.

The American company wants to stop Viagraman from "dealing in any pharmaceutical preparation or substance" with a name connected to Viagra.

ARSENAL Football Club is suing an Essex-based clothes manufacturer and retailer for selling unauthorised blue scarves as "official" Arsenal merchandise outside the club's stadium in Highbury, north London.

Arsenal alleges that Matthew Reed, of Southend Road, Stamford, Essex, owns and runs a number of stalls in the vicinity of the stadium which last October were selling so-called "official" scarves. One costing pounds 6 had a cardboard tag saying "Arsenal FC Highbury Official Team Product," according to the Club.

Another scarf sporting the slogan "THE GUNNERS THE GUNNERS THE GUNNERS" was also displayed next to a sign saying "Official Scarf Only pounds 5."

Arsenal is now seeking an injunction against Mr Reed to stop him "passing off" his merchandise as official club product, as well as damages and costs.

ANOTHER GROUP of futures traders has emerged as potential litigants in the Griffin affair, this time American traders who were using the collapsed Chicago-based firm to trade through London.

Eric Bettelheim, a consultant with the City solicitors Mishcon de Reya, is representing a mixed group of up to 20 traders who lost a total of $4.5m when regulators were forced to close Griffin before Christmas.

Mr Bettelheim said last week that unless the various parties concerned came to a commercial agreement on compensation then both MiesPierson and Tullet & Tokyo would face "vigorous litigation both here and in Germany".

MiesPierson, the Dutch bank, cleared for John Ho Park, whose pounds 6m losses forced Griffin into liquidation. The bankholds around pounds 2m in an account in Frankfurt, which other futures traders have already claimed should form part of a compensation package. Tullet & Tokyo acted as execution- only brokers for Mr Park.

Mr Bettelheim said: "It is pretty clear there was a management failure in both institutions and they have to deal responsibly with the consequences of it."