Gaming giants settle fight over docs in poker machine case
Intellectual Property June 15, 2018 11:34 am By Christine Caulfield | Melbourne

Pokies giants Ainsworth Game Technology and Aristocrat Technologies have settled their spat over access to documents ahead of a hearing to decide if Aristocrat can gather evidence for a possible case alleging its rival stole an idea for a new poker machine.

In defending the prospective law suit by Aristocrat, Ainsworth claimed the initially withheld documents were needed to give evidence. The companies settled their fight over access to the material, and the Federal Court on Thursday dismissed Ainsworth’s interlocutory application by consent.

Justice David Yates had referred to the discovery fight at a hearing in late May as “World War Three”.

Aristocrat has accused Ainsworth of possible copyright infringement, breaching confidential information, and contravening the Australian Consumer Law. It filed an originating application for preliminary discovery with the court on April 24.

In the first case management hearing in mid May, Aristocrat barrister J M Hennessy, SC, told Judge Yates that Ainsworth developed a gaming product similar to Aristocrat’s machine after an employee, Sujay Prabhu, jumped ship from Ainsworth to Aristocrat, and back again.

Prabhu lasted three weeks at Aristocrat before he was terminated, Hennessy said. He moved back to Ainsworth, where his most recent position was as game design team leader.

Earlier this year, Ainsworth– which is owned by billionaire Len Ainsworth — began promoting its Jackpot Strike slot machine at expos.

Hennessy admitted that Aristocrat had only “glimpses” of the game’s operation at the events, but said there were enough similarities between Jackpot Strike and Aristocrat’s own slot machine, Lightning Link, for the company to seek discovery.

Ainsworth has voluntarily entered into an undertaking with Aristocrat, giving assurances that the version released at launch would be different to those demonstrated previously at expos, and that Prabhu would not be involved in the later releases, the court heard.

But, Hennessy said, this may prove to be “problematic” because it was unclear how Ainsworth would separate Prabhu’s efforts in developing the prior versions from the launched product.

In his order Thursday, Judge Yates gave Ainsworth to July 5 to file any evidence in defence of Aristocrat’s preliminary discovery application. Aristocrat has until July 24 to file its submissions.

The judge will hear Aristocrat’s application for preliminary discovery on August 7.

Spruson & Ferguson Lawyers is representing Ainsworth. Gilbert + Tobin is representing Aristocrat.

Hennessy is from Tenth Floor Chambers, while Burgess is from Nigel Bowen Chambers.

The case is Aristocrat Technologies Australia Pty Limited ACN 001 660 715 v Ainsworth Game Technology Limited ACN 068 516 665.

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this story incorrectly stated that Ainsworth lost its interlocutoy application to access the documents in dispute. The application was dismissed by consent following out-of-court negotiations.

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Christine Caulfield

Christine Caulfield has been a journalist for 18 years. She was most recently the Co-Managing Editor at US legal news publication Law360. Prior to that she worked as the County Court reporter for The Herald Sun. She is Co-Founder and Editor of Lawyerly.