Aristocrat Leisure takes Ainsworth to court over alleged breach of intellectual property law

Home » Aristocrat Leisure takes Ainsworth to court over alleged breach of intellectual property law

The Australian poker machine giant Aristocrat filed a claim in the Federal Court against Ainsworth, its biggest rival. According to the allegations, Ainsworth Game Technology (AGT) has violated Aristocrat’s copyright and stole the technology and the designs of its best performing slot machine, Lightning Link.

Lightning Link proved to be a golden mine for Aristocrat

Aristocrat Leisure first introduced their ground-breaking electronic gaming machine Lightning Link in 2014 and it quickly became immensely popular among fans in both Australia and North America. The company has sold a significant number of the machines and the game continues to be one of the most played and highest performing in Australia till this day.

The developer’s biggest rival, Ainsworth, proclaimed at the time that the game was a lucky strike for Aristocrat seeing as really exceptional games were rare, and went on to declare that it would respond with something which would knock it out of the park.

Jackpot Strike turned out to be a twin of Lightning Link

The “something” was put into works in summer 2017, when Ainsworth started developing its Jackpot Strike. Once released, it soon became apparent that the game is very near identical to Aristocrat’s Lightning Link. From the screen designs to animations and even underlying mathematics, the machines could almost be mistaken for each other.

Therefore, it was not surprising when Aristocrat demanded that the matter be looked into. In April 2018, through legal channels, the company demanded access to Ainsworth’s files relating to the development of Jackpot Strike, such as its source code, mathematical tables, and other commercial documents. However, AGT’s response stated that its own investigation of the documents in question revealed no cause for concern and that Jackpot Strike was a completely original product.

The suspicion lies with the servant of two masters

The statement of claim is particularly interested in one employee, named Sujay Prabhu. Prabhu began working for Ainsworth as game designer in 2011 and remained with the company until the end of 2016. Three months later, he became a game designer at Aristocrat. Notably, at this point, AGT claimed that Prabhu may have been guilty of “wilful misappropriation” of its intellectual property and insider info.

Yet even more interestingly, he did not stay in Aristocrat for more than three weeks, and a month later Ainsworth welcomed him back with open arms and his old post of senior game designer. He still works for the company till present date. His first job after returning to AGT was developing Jackpot Strike.

Aristocrat claims that during his short stretch with the company, Prabhu inserted a USB thumb drive into its servers and searched through files unrelated to the project to which he was assigned to. Allegedly, he then copied the spreadsheet containing Lightning Link’s game mathematics onto the USB and took it to Ainsworth. The employee himself says he had lost the USB drive while moving house.

Aristocrat is determined to defend its intellectual property rights

Following months of preparation, Aristocrat has finally decided to take the case to court. According to the company, its rival has breached several laws and it will not let it go unanswered.

“It is our view that this case goes well beyond simple copyright infringement and concerns allegations of extensive and deliberate misappropriation of trade secrets, confidential information and intellectual property,” said the spokesperson for Aristocrat. “Upholding appropriate standards is part and parcel of ensuring ongoing trust in our business and industry and is an important part of Aristocrat’s high compliance culture.”

While Aristocrat declared that it “will always aggressively defend” their assets, including intellectual property, Ainsworth responded by denying all accusations and stating that it will “vigorously defend the claims” made in the proceedings.
The first hearing will take place on July 17.


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