Inc. v. Bally Mfg. Corp.
District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, Eastern Division
Williams Electronics, a manufacturer of pinball machines, filed suit against
defendant for copyright and trademark infringement. Plaintiff’s pinball game is
called Hyperball. In the game, the player shoots rolling balls at lightning
bolt targets to prevent the bolts from hitting the energy center.
Bally Manufacturing is a competitor of plaintiff’s machines and has its own
pinball machines called Rapid Fire. Bally Manufacturing designed Rapid Fire
after its employees saw Hyperball at a trade show in March 1982. Defendant
claims Rapid Fire is superior to Hyperball, and in response plaintiff filed
suit for false representation and copyright infringement.
provided a certificate of copyright registration for Hyperball to prove the
validity of its copyright. The court stated that the game itself is not
protectable under copyright law, but certain aspects of the work are
protectable such as the audiovisual game components. While defendant made the
same type of game as Hyperball, the court stated the game concept is not
court found that the substantial similarity of Hyperball and Rapid Fire is
irrelevant under copyright law. The court held that the elements which
plaintiff argued are copyrightable are common to virtually all pinball games
and therefore, not protectable. The color, shapes, target placements, ball,
grip handles, and lights are not functional elements of the game and are not
protected. Additionally, the court found the two games were not substantial similar:
Hyperball features thunderbolts, while Rapid Fire features aliens carrying
court found no substantial similarity between the two games and granted
defendant’s motion for summary judgment regarding the copyright infringement.
The court denied summary judgment for the Lanham Act claim, holding that there
were issues of fact which remained regarding representations between the