Poker is a game with many different variations. And with that much potential, just about every online poker site gives players an opportunity to experiment with their favorite game types. It’s common to see a large amount of crossover in how poker rooms present games or try to entice new players with exciting modes. Some might borrow methods and some might even steal ideas. But now that Rational Group has been issued a new patent, one game type might soon turn exclusive.
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) issued a patent to Rational Group—parent company for PokerStars–for fast-fold poker. Known as “Computer gaming device and method for computer gaming,” Patent Number 8,727,850 has the potential to greatly affect any fast-fold online poker games for any room operating in the United States. The USPTO’s patent for PokerStars’ Zoom Poker was issued on May 20.
Back in 2012, PokerStars expressed a desire to patent fast-fold poker. The company was looking to secure their popular Rush and Zoom poker variations. PokerStars has attempted to receive patents before, but was rejected by the USPTO as far back as December 2008. After acquiring Full Tilt Poker in 2012, PokerStars attempted more patent applications but was rejected. Yet after rewording these applications, it seems as if the company was finally successful.
Whether or not Full Tilt Poker’s “Rush” variation patent application is a part of this approval hasn’t been determined. Regardless, Rational Group could merely license the property over to PokerStars’ sister site. Doing so would allow the two sites to be the exclusive homes for the extremely popular form of poker.
Fast-fold poker has rapidly been on the rise ever since its introduction on PokerStars. Just under a month of being in beta, Zoom Poker accounted for one out of every four hands being played at cash game tables online. Sites that didn’t support the growing format soon introduced it to keep from losing customers. These days, fast-fold poker is provided by the biggest names in the online poker world.
Restricting the Market
However, the USPTO’s ruling could do damage to all those other sites which offer their own variation of Zoom or Rush poker. Borgata’s online market in New Jersey would see PartyPoker’s FastForward game type infringing on Rational Group’s patent. 888 Poker and WSOP.com’s potential “Snap Poker” games might be halted from introduction in the Delaware, Nevada and New Jersey markets, even if it is available outside the United States.
Such a popular style of poker being limited to just two sites would obviously do wonders for PokerStars and Full Tilt, but possibly harm others. Zynga brought “Jump Poker” exclusively to iOS devices in December of 2012. The patent would edge the game out of the United States as well. Amaya Gaming’s “Strobe Poker” isn’t offered to players in the United States and it might stay that way if fast-fold games are restricted.
Intellectual property lawyer Bill Gantz of Dentons Law Firm claims that fast-fold games not offered in the United States won’t fall under the patent’s restrictions. In a statement on Dentons’ website, Gantz expressed surprise at Rational Group’s constant rejection to suddenly turn into acceptance.
“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,” said Gantz.