Back in 2010, Full Tilt Poker introduced Rush Poker to their online players. This fast paced version of the game proved to be extremely popular amongst the poker community, allowing them to play more tables without having to wait between hands. The concept was praised as being highly innovative.
Now many other competitors have adopted the game, with Microgaming Network’s Blaze Poker, iPoker’s Speed Hold’em, Fast Poker at Relax Gaming, PartyPoker’s FastForward and Zoom Poker available on the PokerStars website.
Before the events of Black Friday in April of last year, Rush Poker was the only fast fold poker game on the market. Full Tilt was keen to protect the product, having applied in a number of global markets for patents. The company released a statement at the time, saying, “Full Tilt Poker, its Affiliates and/or its Parent Company will take vigorous legal action against any infringement of their patent rights.” Seeking protection for their innovative software and hoping to secure exclusive marketing rights, Full Tilt filed patent documents in offices across Europe, Australia, Canada and the United States.
However, as a result of the legal action brought against the organisation by the US Department of Justice on Black Friday, Full Tilt eventually had to sell off their assets to PokerStars and shut down. This lead to various other poker websites marketing their own versions of the Rush Poker game. The first appearance came courtesy of InstaDeal Poker Network in late last year. Chairman of the company, Per Hildebrand claimed that his lawyers informed him that the Rush Poker patent was not legitimate, as it “only met one of the three criteria required to be granted a patent”, and therefore their version of the game carried no legal infringements. Hildebrand stated, “we were confident they were never going to get a patent for it and so we felt it was safe to start moving forward with InstaDeal.”
However, now that PokerStars own the assets of Full Tilt they are attempting to enforce patents on the intellectual property after all. Despite having released their Zoom Poker game earlier this year, they are embarking on an “enforcement strategy” to protect both the original game and their Zoom Poker version. In response to PokerStars’ announcement, Hildebrand said “funny part is that their lawyers once must have concluded that the product is not patentable as they launched Zoom and now they want to argue that it is.”
Paul Telford, an attorney for PokerStars has stated that the company are “doing a full review of [the] Rush Poker 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 successful this patent would give PokerStars a monopoly on the market, and will allow them to attract a large amount of customers away from other poker websites, as recent reports claim that one in four of all poker hands played online now are in fast fold versions. However, there is debate over whether the patents will be enforceable and the process of claiming legal protection is expected to take a number of years. In the meantime, the wide variety of fast fold poker games currently available will not be going anywhere.