A jury in Austin last week cleared Zynga Inc., maker of popular online games, of infringing patents held by gaming technology company IGT.
IGT and IGT Canada sued Zynga in 2021, alleging that the California-based company broached IGT’s patents on at least four online games.
- “Mustang Money”
- “Hit It Rich”
- “Black Diamond Casino”
- “Game of Thrones”
At the heart of the case was determining ownership of the technological features that make online games secure and attractive to play.
As the online casino market continues to grow, expect more of these cases to arise.
Jury rules communication interruption patent invalid
Despite Zynga being based in California, California online casinos are illegal, as is sports betting, online and in person, and online poker. Sweepstakes and social casinos are available to Californians because they do not directly involve real money.
One contention from IGT in its suit claimed that it owned the patent that allows online games to keep operating when a signal is lost, like a player’s Wi-Fi goes out suddenly. It claimed Zynga was wrongly using that technology, specifically in its “Mustang Money” game.
The jury saw it differently. It ruled that not only was Zynga not violating the patent but that the patent itself was invalid. IGT had owned the patent since 2015.
IGT’s claim that bot patent was infringed shot down
IGT also alleged that Zynga used similar technology IGT owned the patent on to spot bots and suspicious play. It claimed Zynga was “deliberately, intentionally and willfully infringing the patent” it had held since 2014.
IGT cited Zynga’s popular poker platform and ZTrack technology that collects data from player behavior and tracks users during game play as the same technology IGT patented. It offered up one example of Zynga utilizing technology to prohibit players using the same IP address from meeting at the same online poker table, thereby allowing them to share information and screens.
IGT claimed it had suffered damages and irreparable harm from Zynga’s use of the technology.
Again, the jury found the claim lacking merit. It ruled that patent infringement is using, offering or selling something that contains every element of a patented claim.
Both IGT and Zynga have enjoyed successes
IGT is well known for lottery, video poker and online slot machine games, It has been an operator in the online game sphere for over 30 years. It boasts more than 12,000 employees worldwide and has relationships in over 100 countries.
Zynga was founded in 2007 in San Francisco with the goal of being a major provider of online games. The company went public in December 2011 and is now traded on NASDAQ. In January 2022, Take-Two Interactive announced its intention to purchase the company through a stock and cash deal valued at $12.7 billion. The two companies merged in May 2022.
Zynga helped create the massive video game hit “FarmVille” on Facebook and “Words With Friends 2.”
Zynga has offices in Austin, which is why the five-day trial was held there.