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Sir Russell Coutts in legal stoush over America's Cup race graphics

The race to win the America’s Cup is starting to heat up, but it’s a battle off the water that’s really starting to cause some controversy.

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The dispute centres on the graphics used to show the course. Source: 1 NEWS

Sir Russell Coutts has sent a copyright infringement notice to Sir Ian Taylor’s Animation Research company, over the use of graphics during live coverage of the racing.

The graphics in question are the grid lines laid over the water as the boats race in real-time, along with the course boundary lines.

Coutts’ technology LiveLine produced this part of the coverage for the last two America’s Cup campaigns, but organisers chose to use Sir Ian’s team to create it this year.

While Coutts’ company SailGP owns a patent on the technology, his graphics require on-water sensors.

Animation Research instead super-impose the grid lines on the water, using helicopters. No data from the boats is required.

“We found a way to do it that doesn’t need any data from the field at all. So that’s the major part of his patent addressed,” Taylor said.

Taylor says Coutts’ complaint is that the grid and boundary line style belong to SailGP. Something he struggles to grapple with, considering Animation Research had used similar concepts before LiveLine even existed.

“LiveLine came in to being in 2010. If you look at what we did in 1992 or 1995, which was Russell’s first Cup, everything they do they copied from us,” Taylor said.

Taylor also says the infringement notice arrived just before Christmas, requiring many of his team to cut their holidays short to address it.

“On the 23rd of December we get this letter and we have to reply by the 5th of January. I actually rang his lawyers to find out a little more and got a message that said ‘sorry, we’re closed till January 14,’” he said.

In a statement, Coutts told 1 NEWS his company was looking to safeguard the technology they’d been developing for the last decade and that they’d requested America’s Cup organisers to either avoid infringement by revising their graphics or to pay an appropriate license fee.

Taylor says his team have developed a ‘new and improved’ graphics set-up when racing resumes on Friday, something they’d been saving for the America’s Cup regatta in March.

He says if Coutts was to prove they’d breached copyright, they had backup systems in place to make sure racing could still go ahead with graphics.