10/09/2012 : CAN FAST POKER BE PATENTED?
Pokerstars reportedly reviewing its rights following Full Tilt Poker acquisition
Online poker operators offering fast-fold poker variants, widely acknowledged to have been initially launched by Full Tilt Poker with its Rush Poker product, will be watching industry leader Pokerstars carefully this week following the news that the company is reviewing the patentability of the concept after acquiring FTP.
Fast-fold or speed poker, in which a player is switched to another table after folding a hand, has become an immensely popular feature on many online poker networks, with some sources suggesting that it accounts for more than one in four online cash game poker hands.
Over the weekend Pokerstars legal chief Paul Telford told the online poker information site Pokerfuse that both Rush Poker and its equivalent Pokerstars offering Zoom Poker are being reviewed to ensure a broader protection of the concept.
In a statement to Pokerfuse, Telford said:
"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 advisers to develop a coordinated patent enforcement strategy."
Companies offering fast-fold variants include Relax Gaming's Fast Poker, Instadeal, Microgaming's Blaze Poker, Party Poker with its FastForward product and Playtech's iPoker with its Speed Hold'em.
Achieving patent protection clearly has significant commercial value for Pokerstars and its Full Tilt brand, and could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
Opposition to any patent may be stiff; Pokerfuse quotes one online poker exec as saying that such a patent would be unenforceable; a fact that Pokerstars lawyers must have considered before the launch of Zoom, which was executed before the acquisition of Full Tilt Poker and its alleged patent rights to the idea.