Citing obviousness and prior art, judge deems Bally's wheel patent invalid

The U.S. District Court for Nevada ruled in favor of International Game Technology in a patent infringement dispute with Bally Technologies, deeming Bally’s wheel indicator patent invalid based on obviousness and prior art.

Bally had alleged that its Lucky Wheel products embodied the claimed invention and that IGT’s “wheel” games, including its Wheel of Fortune slot machines, infringed the patent.

“IGT believes strongly in the United States patent system and respects the valid intellectual property rights of others. We are pleased that our position has been vindicated,” said TJ Matthews, IGT chairman and chief executive officer.

Judge Edward C. Reed entered an order granting IGT’s motion for summary judgment on Sept. 9, more than two years after the lawsuit was filed by Bally Gaming, a subsidiary of Bally Technologies.

However, Bally Technologies issued a statement noting that the ruling may actually help the Las Vegas-based company in separate litigation pending in the same court. It also said the court’s order does not negatively affect any Bally products in the field.

Bally officials said the Bally patent has a priority date before that of the patents that IGT is asserting against Bally in a separate lawsuit, yet the court still determined it obvious.  

In issuing its order, the court cited the recent Supreme Court decision of KSR International Co. v. Teleflex, Inc., and determined that the combination of prior art, coupled with the well-known use of a wheel in gaming, rendered the claims obvious. 

“This underscores the difficulty in bringing suit on patents in our industry post KSR, and we feel this decision strengthens our position in the other litigation brought by IGT also in the U.S. District Court for the District of Nevada,” said Richard Haddrill, chief executive officer of Bally Technologies.