Cranway Ltd v Playtech Ltd and others and an invalid patent.

The High Court has held that a patent for a system of online gaming was invalid as being anticipated by and obvious over a prior art system. The judge’s approach in this case regarding implied disclosure differs from that usually adopted.

Cranway claim that their patent for on-line gambling (EP 0625760B1)has been infringed by Playtech and the Tote. The invention relates to an interactive, real time, realistic computer gaming system using general purpose computers. The invention concerns auditing and security to ensure fairness for players and prevent players defeating the outcome of a game, enabling players to play a variety of games.

Playtech and the Tote deny infringement but also say that the patent is invalid for three reasons:

The claimed invention is not new

The claimed invention is obvious

The claimed invention is not in fact an invention.

Claim 1 of Cranway’s claim:

“1. A gaming system for playing an interactive casino game, comprising a host computer, at least one terminal computer forming a player station, communication means for connecting the terminal computer to the host computer, and program means for operating the terminal computer, the host computer and the communication means, wherein:

a. the terminal computer has a processor and connected to the processor a video display unit and a data entry means

b. the terminal computer has terminal program means for:

establishing a secure communication with the host computer

generating simulation output appropriate to a game including an account status of a player playing the game and

generating a terminal data packet representative of a valid user response generated by activation of the data entry means, and sending the data packet to the host computer

c. The host computer has program means for:

generating a random number for a game being played on a terminal computer within preset criteria for that game in response to a valid terminal data packet received from said computer terminal and

storing an account status for a player playing the game

characterised in that:

the terminal computer is sited at a location remote from the host computer

the communication means is operable to connect the terminal computer to the host computer via a public telecommunication link

the host computer has program means for generating host control data packets for controlling the simulation output of the terminal computer

processing is distributed between the host computer and the terminal computer such that a game result and an account status are processed at the host computer and the simulation output is processed at the terminal computer so that only the minimum relevant information is transmitted between the host and terminal computers and

the simulation output is generated in response to host control data packets received by the terminal computer from the host computer.”

The invention was also excluded from patentability as being for a business method and software as such. If the patent were valid, it would have been infringed by some of the defendants, but the original supplier of the software would not be liable for indirect infringement under section 60(2) of the Patents Act 1977 because it did not supply directly to the end-user.

It was found that the patent is invalid. If it had been valid claim 1 would have been infringed

(as outlined above).

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