Three Card Joker: ShuffleMaster flexes its legal muscles.

Three Card Joker - Shuffle Master flexes its legal muscles

Nevada-based Shuffle Master, Inc., manufacturer and creator of shuffling and gaming equipment and creator of popular games such as Let It Ride and Three Card Poker, has filed a trademark and copyright-infringement suit against Ohio application developer Avalinx, LLC.

“One source asserted that Shuffle Master has derived a significant income stream from the successful resolution of legal actions taken against several different firms in the past 15 years.”

Avalinx previously released knockoff versions of games similar to Shuffle Master’s licensed works, called “Let ‘Em Ride Pro” and “3 Card Pro,” intended for use on Apple’s iPhone, iTouch and iPad devices, it is alleged.

According to the action, Avalinx “misappropriated plaintiff’s intellectual property for its own financial gain by misleading consumers into falsely believing that its mobile applications were sold by or licensed from plaintiff.”

Shuffle Master also alleges Avalinx used artwork derived from similar works on Shuffle Master’s website and other corporate properties. Avalinx, a Dublin, Ohio firm, subsequently removed “Let ‘Em Ride Pro” and “3 Card Pro” from Apple’s App Store in late 2011 in response to a Shuffle Master demand.

The latest action follows a long pattern of court battles for the litigious-minded Shuffle Master, which has aggressively defended its intellectual-property rights against interlopers in a string of patent and copyright actions over the past 15 years.

Shuffle Master’s initial 1999 acquisition of Three Card Poker from Prime Table Games resulted in a legal battle against Progressive Games, Inc., (later Progressive Gaming International Corporation, or PGIC), in which Prime Table Games and Shuffle Master prevailed. That lengthy battle likely contributed to PGIC’s 2009 bankruptcy, in which the firm’s assets were sold to Reno-based International Game Technology (IGT).

One source, speaking on condition of anonymity, asserted that Shuffle Master has derived a significant income stream from the successful resolution of legal actions taken against several different firms in the past 15 years.

Shuffle Master’s aggressive defense of its copyrights sets up a potential battleground connected to Nevada’s push toward a regulated intrastate online-poker network. Online gambling giant bwin.party applied for a Nevada internet gaming license in March, and has signed partnership agreements with MGM Resorts International and Boyd Gaming.

However, bwin.party’s prominent PartyGaming online gambling site has long featured its own versions of the same two Shuffle Master properties involved in the Avalinx action. Party’s Three Card Poker and Let It Ride carry neither trademark acknowledgments nor recognition of Shuffle Master’s existing copyrights.

Two other PartyGaming offerings, Progressive Caribbean Poker and Texas Hold’em Bonus Poker, may also be in conflict with other companies’ property rights.

For its part, Shuffle Master has shown little interest in pursuing its rights in international courts, preferring domestic claims. However, bwin.party’s attempts to gain licensure in Nevada would necessarily bring the company into Shuffle Master’s sights.

Shuffle Master is based in Las Vegas, and its endemic casino-equipment business has long made it an important player in the state’s gambling-related political matters. It recently made an aggressive move to stake its claim online, reached an agreement to purchase Ongame and plans to integrate its casino games into the software this year.

Shuffle Master declined a request comment regarding the possible bwin.party infringements, though the same confidential source termed bwin.party’s pending application as “DOA,” suggesting that Shufflemaster may be preparing itself to either block bwin.party’s efforts or extract a significant settlement.