saves money, but most owners recognize that their patents lose value if they
aren't vigorously enforced.
Perry said game manufacturers became more aggressive in protecting patents in the 1990s when the industry was in the midst of a nationwide expansion. Some companies focused aggressively on protection while others developed contracts to work with third-party licensers as a new revenue source.
The challenge is to stay in front of rapid change, Perry said.
"You do your best to stay fully informed and aware of what's out there, but there's so much," he said. "There could be something out there that you're just not aware of, so you try your best to keep up with what's out there as well as capture what is being developed internally."
New social media games add to the challenge.
"Traditionally, our rate of change has been rather slow in comparison to other industries," Perry said. "However, with this convergence of social gaming and premium games and Internet-based gaming that is starting to get approved in various slots in certain jurisdictions, it appears as though regulators are starting to accept technology changes at a much quicker rate."
The growth in patented products has given rise to "patent trolls" -- people and companies who acquire patents from bankrupt companies or purposely fail to protect their own patents, then aggressively enforce them with lawsuits. Among the most notable local examples: Righthaven.
"Righthaven's lawsuits became nationally infamous," LaFrance said.
Righthaven was a copyright-holding company that contracted with newspapers, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal and Denver Post, to enforce their copyrights. The company went after people it believed illegally republished newspaper material. But Righthaven overlooked one important detail: It didn't own most of the copyrights.
"Once the courts got a look at the documents purporting to have assigned the copyrights to Righthaven, it turned out that those were not valid assignments," LaFrance said. "So the whole premise of the litigation just collapsed. Then there were some court rulings that said the defendant's activities were fair use of the copyrighted material."
Cybersquatting is another intellectual property concern that has come about in the Internet age. It occurs when someone registers a domain name that's similar to an existing trademarked brand. Cybersquatters typically have no intention of building a website but grab a site in the hopes of selling it to the affected company or a third party.
Cybersquatting can cause confusion among consumers, but it's up to judges and juries to determine whether that confusion warrants damages.
A common remedy is issuing a restraining order demanding that the company stop using the name, LaFrance said. If monetary damages are issued, they usually are limited to the profits generated by the cybersquatter.
"Everybody seems to want to bask in the glow of a famous casino name," LaFrance said. "They're trying to draw the eyeballs of Internet users and drive them to these websites and try to get their money in various ways. The casinos in Las Vegas are very aggressive in pursuing these cybersquatters and are very successful at it."
A year ago, American Casino and Entertainment Properties, which owns the Stratosphere, sued Seattle's Marchex Sales over its aceplay.com website, a play
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