Pokerstars Granted Fast-fold Patent In USAMay 12, 2014 6:16 pm
After years of rejection, PokerStars has finally succeeded in having its fast-fold patent application accepted by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). While Patent Number 8,727,850 entitled “Computer gaming device and method for computer gaming” is unlikely to affect those poker rooms offering their own “Zoom Poker” versions around the world, the patent could, however, signal some major repercussions for licensed firms operating in the USA’s nascent online poker industry.
PokerStars originally filed its first patent application back in December 2008 and in July 2012 the company struck a $731 million deal with the US DoJ to buy Full Tilt Poker, after which PokerStars parent company Rational Group added the additional intellectual property rights it acquired to its patent application. As Paul Telford, General Counsel for PokerStars, previously explained to pokerfuse:
“We are doing a full review of our Rush patent applications and will cross reference these with our existing Zoom patent applications to ensure we have broad protection in the area of “fast fold poker.” If necessary, we will use these patents to protect the inventive elements of the Rush and Zoom products and are working closely with our legal advisors to develop a co-ordinated patent enforcement strategy.”
Interestingly, it was a meeting with the USPTO Examiner which eventually lead to a re-wording of its patent applications to satisfy the organization as to the inventive element of PokerStars’ fast-fold products. Key to the recent success was a more accurate description of “folding out of turn” to refer to “when gameplay is at a position of another one of the first plurality of players.”
After the patent was granted, gaming and intellectual property lawyer Bill Gantz from Denton indicated troubles ahead for other poker operators using its now patented product in the US, stating:
“The amendments which allowed this patent to issue should seem obvious to the entire poker industry, and there should be ample grounds for vigorously challenging this patent.”
In other words, companies such as PartyPoker which currently offers fastforward tables in New Jersey, or 888 Poker, which provides the software platform for WSOP.com in New Jersey and Nevada, could both soon face challenges from The Rational Group re Patent Number 8,727,850. Bovada and its Zone Poker product, however, is less likely to be affected as it continues to operate in the USA’s grey market and is thus not subject to legalized, online poker regulation.