Party Gaming facing a multi million dollar damage claim?

Gibraltar-based online gambling group Party Gaming could be facing a multi million dollar trademark infringement damages claim from WMS Gaming following a US Court of Appeals ruling this week.

The story has broken on a number of industry websites which report that WMS Gaming Inc. won its appeal against PartyGaming plc and its subsidiaries PartyCasino and PartyPoker. WMS had appealed for greater damages than the $2.67 million it had been awarded against Party as a default judgement last year in a US District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. PartyGaming allegedly ignored the original WMS lawsuit, resulting in a default judgement going against it.

The original case involved allegations by WMS Gaming that PartyGaming had committed "persistent, knowing and willful infringement" of WMS trademarks Jackpot Party and Super Jackpot Party through the years 2004 to 2006 through "approximate and exact reproductions of the marks". WMS had asked for damages of $287 million.

Dissatisfied with the level of damages awarded by the Illinois judge, WMS took the issue to the US Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit and received a more favourable decision this week, with the higher court finding that the district court made a fundamental error of law by failing to distinguish between WMS's right to the defendant's profits and its right to damages.

The Appeal Court judge ruled: "In the absence of evidence from PartyGaming showing that deductions are warranted, WMS is entitled to the revenues supported by its evidence. We add that while the figure WMS seeks, $287,391,140.70 is considerably larger than the 'damages' award granted by the district court…the record shows that in a single year (2005), the defendant reported revenues of $977.7 million….

"The record shows persistent, pervasive, knowing and willing infringement for several years by PartyGaming, as it repeatedly refused to cease and desist even after receiving several forms of actual notice of its unlawful activity, from both the Patent and Trademarks Office and from WMS."

There was little if any information available at Party Gaming as we went to press, with the latest press material referring to a live dealer agreement that Party Gaming has just signed with Evolution Gaming.

The company's statement advises that its customers will be able to enjoy an authentic 'live casino' experience of playing roulette, blackjack and baccarat tables following the agreement with Evolution Gaming, which provides streamed casino services. Games will be available in different languages and currencies, further enhancing the quality and depth of PartyCasino's customer offer.

Jim Ryan, Chief Executive Officer of PartyGaming, said: "PartyCasino, which is continuing to roll out movie themed slots, is focused firmly on delighting customers with greater entertainment. We believe that 'live casino' will gain us access to players who enjoy and prefer the experience of watching croupiers dealing cards or spinning roulette wheels and calling 'place your bets' in real time that's great, live online gaming entertainment."

Jens von Bahr, Chief Executive Officer of Evolution, said: "Evolution is changing the face of online casino gaming for players around the world with an innovative, unmatched live experience. PartyCasino is an industry leader at the forefront of change and we look forward to sharing a seat with them at the table!"

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