Alexander Stern of Netanya filed and prosecuted Israel Patent Application No. IL 196915 titled “Lotto Game”. He wasn’t professionally represented.
The basis of the invention was that cards can be individual cards, part of a suite, or part of a set of cards having the same number. When drawing the 52 cards from a pack, they can fall into any of the above variations, and these can be betted on.
The main claim is:
A method for playing lotto game based on use of a particular feature of playing cards, such that each single card is a combination of a value of card and a suit, said method comprises:
– betting on single cards, cards of a particular suit, cards of a particular value, suits, values of cards, combinations, variations and permutations thereof, and variations with repetitions and combinations with repetitions of suits and values of cards according to selected by a player bet amount and chances to win;
– picking out all cards at random one by one from a standard deck of 52 playing cards, which brings about creation of random sequences of cards of different types and random sequences of suits and values of cards, wherein each card picked out at random takes part in the creation of said random sequences fulfilling several functions at the same time: as a single card, as a value of card of a particular suit and as a suit of card of a particular value;
– said random sequences forming results of the game are permutations of said cards, suits and values of cards, containing variations and combinations of different numbers of said cards, suits and values of cards and also variations with repetitions and combinations with repetitions of said suits and values of cards;
– writing down said random sequences in a course of the game separately from each other, including ordinal numbers of said cards, suits and values of cards in these random sequences respectively;
– comparing results of the game with bets made by each player and determining whether a successful bet has occurred, and in the affirmative case, calculating a winning amount which is granted to a player according to the probability of success of his bet.
In essence, a bet is placed, the cards are drawn randomly and will feature lone cards, sets of identical numbers and runs of the same suite. These are recorded and compared with the bet, and a prize is awarded based on the probability of the betted result being realized.
Mifal Hapayis, the National Lottery, opposed the patent issuing, claiming that the invention was too general and was merely a way of playing a game that could be performed with pen and paper, and was thus not a technical invention as required for patents under Section 3 of the Law.
The Applicant countered that it was inefficient to run this game without a computer, and using pen and paper would lead to many errors. In this regard, he referred to the guidelines for computer inventions, and argued that the invention was more than a computer program per se.
Commissioner Alon noted that Section 3 allowed inventions in any technological field, and interpreted that to mean that patentable inventions had to be in ‘technological’. He went on to note that the independent claim did not actually require a computer, and that the invention could be performed by hand on paper, as the Applicant admitted during the hearing.
The guidelines for patentability states that:
Discoveries, scientific theories, mathematical equations, instructions for playing games and computer processes per se should be considered as abstract ideas, or processes lacking a technical nature, whether if performed by hand, or on a computer. Furthermore, economic business methods are not considered as technical inventions as ruled in re IL 131733 to Eli Tamir, ruling of 21 September 2006.
Thus the Work Guidelines that the Applicant wished to rely on state that computerization of an invention that can be performed by hand is only patentable if the use of a computer provides more than merely improving the efficiency by automation.
The improvements that the Applicant noted by computerizing the process simplify the recording, remove mistakes and improve accuracy. These are natural results of computerization and so the Commissioner ruled that the patent lacks the technological requirement of the Law as currently written, and this would be the case were a computer explicitly required in the main claim.
There are dependent claims that do recite a computer, but without any explanation regarding why this achieves more than merely improving efficiency, the Commissioner did not consider that this provided a technical nature to the invention. Furthermore, the Applicant could not point to any dependent claim that provided a technological feature.
Consequently, the Opposition was accepted and the patent was rejected.
Since the Opposition proceeding was conducted efficiently in a focused manner that did not require cross-examination of witnesses, only relatively low costs of 4000 Shekels were awarded.
Opposition to IL 196915 “Lotto game” to Stern, opposed by Mifal HaPayis, ruling by Ofir Alon, 28 January 2020.
What computers contribute to gambling games Is that people can play remotely. They do not need to be in the same room. It is for this reason that Mifal HaPayis, the National Lottery which is a government gambling monopoly, opposes such patents.