Zynga’s Online Gambling Ambitions Bolstered by its Patent Portfolio

Last February, just prior to Facebook’s highly anticipated IPO, Envision IP analyzed the US patent holdings of various social networking companies.  At that time, we identified only a single US patent, and only 9 published US patent applications assigned to Zynga.

Over the last year, however, Zynga’s push to acquire patents has been impressive, and the company currently has 89 US patents, and 36 pending US patent applications.

The increase in Zynga’s patent holdings is partly attributable to its acquisition of 38 patents from Walker Digital, LLC.  Of these, 33 patents relate to casino gaming and gambling technologies.

For example, US 7559838 is directed to a game of chance allowing users to place wagers.  US 6843724 is directed to a gaming device connected to a slot machine server.  Also, US 6503146 is directed to team play within a casino slot club, and making payouts based on predefined payout rules.

Shown below is Figure 3B from US 7559838 which depicts a gaming device and menu:

The patents acquired from Walker Digital relate to software and methods for facilitating multi-player casino-style gaming, and for processing various casino-style wagering and payout schemes.  While the patents appear directed towards a physical casino environment, the claims of these patents are not specifically restricted to an in-person setting.

Last month, the Wall Street Journal reported that Zynga had filed for a gaming license with the Nevada Gaming Control Board.  In October, TechCrunch reported that Zynga had entered into a partnership with bwin.party, a Gibraltar-based online gambling company, to offer real money online poker and casino games in the United Kingdom.

The Walker Digital patent acquisition certainly seems in line with Zynga’s announced foray into the online gambling and casino business, as these patents may help Zynga build and protect its online gambling assets.

Zynga’s remaining 51 patents appear to have been developed internally (with the exception of US 6884172, originally assigned to nGame Limited).  These patents include technology for virtual currency management and gifting, interactive multi-user online gaming, remote software updating, and social networking features.

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