A federal judge in Nevada agreed last month to allow an immediate appeal of his summary judgment invalidating wheel patents held by slot manufacturer International Game Technology, a ruling he made in a lawsuit IGT filed against rival slot-maker Bally Technologies.
At the same time, U.S. District Court Judge Robert C. Jones indicated he will delay the hearing of an antitrust countersuit filed by Bally against IGT, also alleging patent infringement in wheel-based slot bonus events.
“The court recognized it would be fundamentally unfair to make IGT defend the antitrust counterclaims following the court’s issuance of what it called ‘just a tentative ruling – tentative because it’s from me and not an appellate court.’ Therefore, the court decided to stay the proceedings and vacate the trial date,” said Dave Johnson, IGT’s executive vice president and general counsel.
The initial lawsuit claimed Bally games using wheels in top-box bonus events infringed on the patent that applies to IGT’s Wheel of Fortune and similar games. Bally counter-sued, partly on the basis that it had produced wheel-based bonus events prior to Wheel of Fortune. Jones, in his summary judgment, stated that IGT’s wheel patents were invalid based on prior art (previously existing wheel events) and on obviousness.
“Judge Jones indicated that a review of his decisions by a specialized patent court in Washington, D.C., the Federal Circuit Court of Appeals, will help resolve the dispute, and that the parties need a final ruling so that they can conclude the trial and litigation. The Federal Circuit will review these recent decisions and the earlier Markman ruling de novo or as if they were being presented for the first time,” said Johnson. “IGT looks forward to this appeal and remains very confident in its case.”