Software patents in Europe: Inventive gambling

von Bastian Best

The EPO grants software patents on gambling methods – well, at least on their technical implementation. Although the actual rules of a game are excluded from patentability, a non-obvious technical implementation of such rules can indeed be patented in Europe, as the following decision shows.

The patent application at stake concerned an interactive gambling application (e.g. for playing blackjack or poker) for use with an interactive television:

Fig. 1 of EP 1 461 785 B1

The patent application aims at providing a method for carrying out secure offline interactive gambling. To this end, it is proposed to verify the result of the gambling application, which is controlled by the user, at a central gambling facility. Accordingly, the gambling application itself can be stored insecurely, thus allowing dispensing with more expensive secure memory for storing the application and therefore making it easier and inexpensive to distribute and update the gambling application.

This is what the board of appeal said:

From the reasons

Inventive step

4.1 The closest prior art is considered to be document D3 which, as discussed above (point 3.2), discloses a secure offline gambling system and method providing an interactive gambling application in which a user interactively provides a sequence of user selections in response to gambling input generated by a random gambling input generator, and thus relates to the same type of gambling game application as the patent application under consideration.

Document D3, however, relies on the security of the system being achieved by carrying out all operations which can influence the outcome of the game within the secure processor of the smart card so that the system is not susceptible to tampering, even when used in a non-secure environment ...

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