sia’s largest gaming exhibition, G2E Asia, was overshadowed by a patent dispute pitching a local company against a US game maker accused of patent rights infringement.
It could see G2E Asia moved from Macau to Singapore following events at the show this week. The argument is between US-based manufacturer Shuffle Master and Macau firm LT Game over a patent relating to multigame technology that the latter claims to own for the Chinese enclave – but, it seems, nowhere else.
According to reports, last Wednesday Shuffle Master was asked by customs officials to cover certain machines on its booth. Following this, the company is understood to have presented customs with a court order showing it was permitted to exhibit these products at the show and uncovered them once more. LT Game, however, maintained that these devices infringed its intellectual property rights for its domestic market.
LT Game’s attempts to have Shuffle Master’s products covered prompted the American Gaming Association – which, along with Reed Exhibitions, organises the event – to intervene. The AGA warned that such things should be decided in the courts, not on the trade show floor.
The organisation is planning to make a complaint to the Macau authorities, with AGA president Frank Fahrenkopf quoted by local media as saying the show could move to Singapore if the government chooses to intervene in such matters of litigation. Another company affected by the patent dispute is Slovenia’s Alfastreet, which decided to comply with the Macau patent by not showing its own multigame product. However, the company’s Albert Radman told InterGaming the company may not exhibit at next year’s event if it is held in Macau.
The organisers, he said, were unable to protect its rights to display its products – even when these products are not being sold in this specific market. He said: “What purpose would we have for coming next year if we can’t exhibit our products?” Radman urged the organisers to find a solution and said he would “strongly recommend” moving the show to Singapore where Marina Bay Sands would provide the “perfect venue.”
Betty Zhao, Sales & Marketing Manager of the Macau game maker LT Game and the patent holder of the machine, said they were forced to stop resorting to help from law enforcement after G2E organizer AGA and exhibition operator Reed put pressure on LT Game to step back from the dispute, or risk a cut of electricity to LT’s booth.
“We think this is very unfair for a company trying to protect its patent rights,” she said, “and what should be resolved through legal procedures should not be interfered with by this kind of threat.” She did not specify if the company would take legal action against the organizers.
The Macau Gaming Equipment Manufacture Association issued a press release yesterday, stating that the turnout was not at all satisfactory after interference by the expo organizers, resulting in the lift of the exhibition ban on the disputed machines. The Association, however, regarded the episode as “the first successful case in protecting the copyright of its member company” since the Association’s establishment.
“This is a milestone event,” they said, “the Customs Services, the Court and the Financial Services Bureau deserves appraisal for their actions, which show the authority’s determination in intellectual property rights protection.” The Association also urged the authority to reinforce regulations and scrutiny on exhibition organizers by legislating against those who allow any company showcasing plagiarised products to participate in any exhibition.
Reports say local game manufacturers were thinking of organizing their own gaming exhibition to rival the G2E Asia, but concerns were raised that the major international makers may refuse to participate.
In Macau, copyright infringement is considered a crime and offenders could be jailed. The G2E Asia organisers say if companies continue to use the Macau event to fight copyright wars in public then the event could be forced to move elsewhere.
Official press release of the organization of the event at the end of the first day:
“G2E Asia remains committed to providing the most respected annual gathering of industry professionals, as it has for the past six years. We are pleased that our exhibitors choose G2E Asia to display their latest products and services and are honored to represent the Asian gaming industry in Macau.
As seen on our show floor, the gaming industry is a highly technological and innovative market that strives to provide the most entertainment value for its customers. It is not uncommon that in such a competitive environment legal disputes may arise which must be resolved through the justice system.
G2E Asia should not and does not play any role in such conflicts. In order to maintain the reputation of individual companies, of the industry and of the host community, we are dedicated to providing a level playing field for all of our exhibitors. We maintain strict policies for all exhibitors to ensure the primary mission of G2E Asia – to provide new business opportunities for exhibitors and attendees alike – remains the focus of this annual gathering.”