roduct piracy and copyright infringement are prevalent at the international trade shows of the gaming industry, especially so in Eastern Europe. All major OEMs are increasingly and adversely afflicted by the problem.
What started at the World of Games gaming show of 2006 in Moscow with a vivid display of counterfeit Novomatic gaming machines being crushed by a Caterpillar, and found its continuation last year in Bucharest, has become an international crusade against copying piracy led by the Austrian Novomatic gaming group: with concrete results in Russia.
Counterfeit machines are often publicly presented on neighboring exhibition stands right beside the original product, component parts and cabinets offered on diverse websites and the game software and concepts either stolen or badly copied.
Basic condition for a successful battle was the registry of industrial property rights in the form of trademarks, patents or designs, in order to be able to effectively enforce such claims. This is the strategy that Novomatic has been consequently implementing in recent years.
The latest success in the prosecution of copyright infringement was achieved in close cooperation between Novomatic, international law firms and local police authorities. In spring 2008, the operator of a factory in the Russian capital Moscow who had specialized in the manufacture of counterfeit Gaminator gaming machines was convicted. Forged components were acquired from various sources, assembled, the machines tagged with fake documents and serial plates and sold to Russia, Belarus, Ukraine, the Baltic countries and former Yugoslavia.
With 30 employees and a monthly production volume of up to 200 machines the convicted company, Safe Games, had generated considerable turnover and inflicted an equally high economic loss on the original equipment manufacturer Novomatic, which was claimed in the course of the action.
Considering the bad health of the accused entrepreneur, the court sentenced her leniantly to a monetary penalty as well as a probation period of two years of imprisonment. All seized machines and components were destroyed.
Another blow against organized product piracy was accomplished by Russian authorities only a few weeks later. The accused was found guilty by the Moscow court of having used copyrighted items, as well as having acquired, stored and transported counterfeit copies of others’ work with the intention to sell the same on a large scale. The accused also pleaded guilty to having assembled and produced counterfeit Gaminator gaming machines on non-residential premises which were rented by him. The counterfeit machines were then equipped with fake Novomatic software.
The accused explained to the court that he had maintained no accounting records whatsoever as to numbers of items sold, shipping or customer contacts or other business documents. The court sentenced the accused amongst others to the compensation of damages as well as a probation period of two years of imprisonment. In this case, too, all seized gaming equipment was destroyed.
The biggest coup against product piracy was accomplished by the Russian authorities at the end of September in Kazan, capital city of the Constituent Republic of Tatarstan. A complete factory was discovered in the biggest raid yet against product piracy. In the course of the top-secret operation special forces stormed the production halls and immediately confiscated the seized gaming equipment.
The Novomatic Group of Companies, its subsidiaries and associates said they will continue to aggressively prosecute with international lawsuits and actions against any persons or companies involved in the piracy and infringement of their products and intellectual property.
The investigation results in Russia prove the paramount importance of the continuing fight against product piracy in the gaming industry. These results also demonstrate, to what extent the consistent protection of intellectual property and the effective cooperation with the local investigating authorities put the screws on product piracy.