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Bally Gets Patent, Sues IGT

6 Sep 2006

By Howard Stutz

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Bally Technologies was awarded a patent Tuesday morning by the United States Patent and Trademark Office covering the use of spinning wheel indicators on its slot machine bonus systems.

The Las Vegas game maker then promptly turned around and filed a federal lawsuit against rival slot machine provider International Game Technology, saying the equipment giant is violating the newly issued patent on a large portion of its gambling products, including the popular "Wheel of Fortune" gaming machine.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas and marked the fifth time since 2004 the companies have challenged each other in court. In May, Reno-based IGT said Bally Technologies' "Bally Power Bonusing," a gaming system product, infringed upon nine American patents held by IGT.

Bally said the intellectual property under its new patent was purchased two years ago when the company acquired Sierra Gaming. Sierra had purchased the technology when it bought another small gaming company, Arcade Planet.

Bally Chief Financial Officer Mark Lipparelli said the patent had been pending since October 1992.

According to a statement, Bally said slot machines built with the same capabilities as "Wheel of Fortune" but with different themes are infringing on the company's patent.

Gaming analysts have said the IGT wheel-based games in question are some of the casino industry's most widely distributed games, including "Wheel of Gold," "The Addams Family," "American Bandstand," "The Apprentice," "Dilbert Wheelbert," "Drew Carey Great Balls of Cash," "Elvira," "I Dream of Jeannie" and "I Love Lucy."

Bally Technologies Chief Executive Officer Richard Haddrill said the company will enforce any infringement on its ownership of the patent, even though it took almost 14 years to be approved.

IGT spokesman Ed Rogich said the company did not have any statement on the case since it was filed early Tuesday.

IGT owns several patents covering the wheel-based games that were approved in 1994.

IGT has two pending lawsuits accusing Bally of patent infringement.

In 2004, IGT sued Bally for infringing on six patents, including those involving IGT's bonus wheel gaming machines. IGT has also accused Bally of infringing on patents relating to optical systems for monitoring table games.

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