UFA or Universal Financial Responsibility, as it is popularly called, has long been seen as a great success for sports book publishers. The high budget, high interest returns and large customer base have long been the bedrock of the betting industry. However, recent financial problems, new rules by the NFL and increasingly stiff competition from online bookmakers have meant that many betting establishments are either going out of business or consolidating their resources in order to remain in business. In an effort to keep its members happy, UFA as an entity is now being threatened by the United States Patent and Trademark Office with a patent lawsuit.
The USPTO is basically an organization that was designed to prevent “unfair” acts on the part of the patent office, but in this case it appears to be singling out sports books. The USPTO has been in this role since 1950, and it is responsible for many of the rules that govern the patent process. Its purpose is to protect the consumer from impostors and to provide reasonable protection for inventions.
According to an article in Sports Business Daily, “The USPTO sent letters to several sportbooks warning them that they could be infringing on the US Patent and Trademark Office’s rules if they did not stop doing business with clients who were selling fake tickets.” The USPTO is not accusing the sportbooks in question of any wrongdoing; however, it appears to be looking into whether the sportbooks complied with the rules. One might argue that it is not the sportbooks’ responsibility to ask the USPTO if they are violating the rules, but it does appear that the USPTO is attempting to reign them in. Whether or not the USPTO has legal jurisdiction over the matter is uncertain, but it appears that such a question has come up before and the USPTO decided to take action.
So what is the reason for the USPTO getting involved? The main issue is with UFA, which is nothing more than an unregulated non-standardized area of patent law. The USPTO is trying to keep sports books from being able to use obscure clauses in their contracts as a way to get around the patent laws. For example, if a contract contained a vague provision granting the right to the sportbooks to print fraudulent tickets, then the law would prevent the sportbooks from doing this. However, the USPTO claims that it can now prevent this from happening.
The problem with this entire situation is that it is not just the USPTO that is acting in an irresponsible fashion. There have been many questions raised as to the reason that the courts have ruled out patents for Nike, Acron Bike, andEA Sports for illegal patenting activities. As was stated above, the USPTO is trying to reign in unpatented practices that occur on websites and in blogs. This is an effort to prevent people from getting ideas for inventions and to prevent companies from stealing ideas. Unfortunately, it seems that there are some people that believe that the USPTO has every right to tell sportbooks what patentable ideas they can or cannot patent based upon the fact that the sportbooks did not do their due diligence before purchasing the rights to use these ideas.
The USPTO has tried to argue that these patents were obtained improperly since the patents were obtained in bad faith. The patents were not taken out in good faith, but the USPTO would not be arguing that point. They have tried to claim that the patents were issued in error based upon the fact that the patents were not properly obtained based upon the fact that the source code was not disclosed and thus, it was not disclosed to the person selling the software to the public. The problem is that the source code was disclosed long before the software was sold to the public. Thus, it was obvious that the USPTO had no business refusing to allow the patents based upon this point.