Planet Bingo v. Gametech International
__ F.3d __ (Fed. Cir. 2006)

Planet Bingo is the exclusive licensee of both the ‘289 and ‘786 patents. The patents claim alternative methods of playing bingo by coupling numbers with additional “indicia” or “markings,” such as colors or shading patterns. These additional designations overlay a traditional bingo game to produce more winning combinations for more prizes. For example, a player may achieve a classic bingo (e.g., a straight line) and then couple that line with an additional indicator (e.g., a straight line that is also all red) to win a greater jackpot. The additional designations come into play either with markings on the bingo balls in the ‘289 patent or with a marked bingo flashboard in the ‘786 patent. The patents also specify that players might make a second, separate wager to access a progressive jackpot. In this type of bingo with wagers, the unclaimed purse in each round carries over to the next game (think Powerball). The bingo hall may also set aside a portion of this second wager to pay winners of the progressive jackpots. Gametech International came along and started producing a similar game, albeit with minor variations.

The Federal Circuit affirmed district court’s decision finding non-infringement and invalidity where the district court correctly found that the defendant did not literally infringe the claims, properly refused to find infringement by equivalents, and correctly found certain patent claims invalid as anticipated by a prior art bingo game.

Planet Bingo’s exclusive bingo days appear to be near an end. We include this case because the concept could be applied to networked video gaming machines in Las Vegas or elsewhere where gambling is legal.

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