Friday, 8 June 2012

Playing means paying

More and more Europeans turn to their mobile phone to play a game or – if their national laws allow them to – place a bet. Even guests of certain hotels in Nevada can place bets on their phone since last September, which is pretty unique considering online gambling is still strictly forbidden in the USA.

Undoubtedly, the rise in mobile gaming is being propelled by the popularity of smartphones. The entertainment value of mobile games has increased significantly, since mobile games evolved from simple, pre-installed games to challenging and visually attractive forms of entertainment. Gambling operators as well as mobile phone companies are currently making huge efforts to be at the forefront of what is considered to be the next commercial battle. Many are investing in mobile apps, innovative software and mobile phone technology to make sure they will be part of this growing market.

The increasing use of mobile games, however, does mean they will be subject to more scrutiny by regulators and other relevant parties, not to mention the rapid increase in lawsuits against businesses in the mobile gaming sector; legal cases that affect both developers and platforms. Until a year ago, patent infringement cases were mostly limited to legal battles between the biggest industry players, such as the ongoing battle between Samsung and Apple. This is, however, no longer a realistic assessment of the current legal situation in the market.

A growing number of companies are considering legal action against game and app developers, who are becoming more and more aware that intellectual property rights need to be taken into account when developing a gaming app. Copyrights, patents and trademarks are increasingly a headache for developers and businesses, not to mention the  data protection issues that have arisen as well as advertising and marketing rules and guidelines developers and businesses need to stick to. 

All this means a rapidly growing client base for many law firms, especially for those practices that offer gambling and gaming, data protection and TMT advice. And one is talking about some of the biggest companies in the world; mobile phone companies, banks, investors, gaming businesses and payments processors who see the opportunities and have recognised the commercial outlook. The market seems to be on a high, as one industry lawyer pointed out to me recently: “the more people play, the more our clients pay”.

Michiel Willems © May 2012 CP Publishing Ltd. London, UK. Pictures: /