Friday, November 10, 2006

World's Standard of Online Poker (WSOP.com) Raises HARRAH'S Bluff

World's Standard of Online Poker® (WSOP.com) Raises HARRAH'S Bluff: "is the headline of the latest salvo in a long-running dispute between the World's Standard of Online Poker® and Harrah's, the giant gaming conglomerate (12 brands and 80,000 employees) that bought Binion's Horseshoe (home of the World Series of Poker) in 2004.

The story timeline in point form:
(Source: http://www.wsop.com)

  • 1970 - Benny Binion started what is now known as the World Series of Poker
    • In 1970, there were only about 7 entrants into the final event; in 1980, only about 73; in 1990, only about 194; and in 2000, only about 512.
  • May 7, 2003 - Mr. Schiavio received the domain registration for WSOP.com.
    • " I immediately told Becky Binion Behnen about this registration and offered to transfer the domain name to Binion's Horseshoe," says Mr Schiavio. "Ms. Behnen told me "You keep it." as the Horseshoe was not interested in the domain name."
  • 1999 - January 2004 (the closing of Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino), Federico Schiavio (owner of wsop.cpm domain and World's Standard of Online Poker®) was a consultant for Binion's Horseshoe and acted as its IT Director. Negotiations to keep Mr. Schiavio on to help with the transition did not work out.
  • January 7th 2004 - The IRS places a federal tax lien on the Binion's Horseshoe Hotel & Casino.
  • January 9, 2004 - Federal agents shut down Binion's Horseshoe and seized its cash and assets to pay some outstanding debts owed for health care and pension contributions. 1800 people lost their jobs.
  • March 2004 - Harrah's Entertainment purchases Binion's Horseshoe
  • March 11, 2004 - Harrah's Entertainment sells Binion's Horseshoe on to MTR Gaming Group. Harrah's retains the rights to the Horseshoe brand and the World Series of PokerWikipedia entry on Binion's Horseshoe)
    when it sold the casino and hotel, but sold the Binion's brand. (Source:
  • March 23, 2004 - Schiavio is sent a cease and desist letter from Harrah's lawyers demanding he refrain from using the WSOP wordmark, abandon his (then pending) claims for registration of the WSOP trademark filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and transfer ownership of the WSOP.com domain to Harrah's.
    • The letter further claimed that using the design and trademarks to identify "directly-competitive services is certain to result in substantial actual consumer confusion with Harrah's world-famous World Series of Poker and WSOP [trade]marks."
  • April 8, 2004 - Schiavio's lawyer's respond to Harrah's in a letter explaining Schiavio;
    • was not using, and had no plans to use, the WORLD SERIES OF POKER trademark
    • Binion’s Horseshoe Hotel and Casino never adopted or used WSOP as a trademark and never transferred rights to the trademark to Harrah's or MTR
    • Binion’s approved of Mr. Schiavio’s WSOP project at least as early as 2001, and never objected to the project or to the use of the WSOP mark
  • April 30, 2004 - Harrah's responds to the earlier letter citing the Horseshoe's use of WSOP as a service mark (not a trademark --PB--) as early as June 2000 and claiming possession of documentation proving transfer of the rights to Harrah's
  • September 04, 2004 - Schiavio's application to trademark WSOP is approved by the USPTO
  • September 16, 2004 and November 17, 2004 - Harrah’s files intent-to-use applications for WSOP
  • October 19, 2004 - USPTO decides there is too much similarity between WSOP and World Series of Poker and decides to revoke Schiavio's trademark rights
  • April 19, 2005 - USPTO withdraws its objections after a lengthy and detailed defence by Schiavio's lawyers
  • June 30th 2005, Stokes & Bartholomew the firm representing Schiavio merges with Adam’s & Reese a firm representing Harrah’s and Schiavio's attorney cannot get a waiver to allow him continued representation
  • September 6, 2005 - Schiavio's right to the WSOP trademark is affirmed and published in the official USPTO Gazette.
  • October 2005 - Harrah's files a trademark opposition action against Schiavio's application to register WSOP as a trademark for the World's Standard of Online Poker® online poker tournaments
  • May 30, 2006 - Harrah's files domain dispute over wsop.com asserting Schiavio had no legitimate interests or rights in the WSOP mark, had registered the domain in bad faith and wsop.com would get confused with the World Series of Poker. Harrah's law firm further claimed there were no other legal proceedings happening in this case despite being the same firm that filed the trademark opposition action the previous October.
  • August 2006 - Schiavio files suit against Harrah's in Los Angeles
  • August 22. 2006 - The Domain Name Arbitrator dismisses Harrah's claim to wsop.com because the rights to it are being disputed elsewhere.
  • September 2006 - Harrah's file suit against Schiavio in Las Vegas despite "as part of the domain name dispute, [agreeing] to jurisdiction in Los Angeles to decide any issues related to the domain name transfer."
PB - I e-mailed Harrah's Media relations department yesterday and received an automated(?) reply thanking me for my inquiry and that "Your inquiry will be routed to the appropriate contact and processed accordingly" putting me in 'wait-and-see' mode for now.

Gary Thompson, the Director of Communications & Operations in the Sports & Entertainment Marketing department of Harrah's Entertainment Inc. replied today with the following;

"Thanks for your inquiry regarding the lawsuit over wsop.com. Your email was forwarded to me for comment.

I appreciate your interest in the story, but Harrah's has a long-standing policy of not commenting on pending litigation. Therefore, there is nothing we can say about it."

That is a standard response from a publicly-traded company involved in a lawsuit so, while we can't hold that against them, it doesn't help us decide who's right.

Your comments are welcome. Do you support Schiavio? Should he give it up?

--PB--

Absolute Poker!

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