Harrah's Entertainment, the owner of the World Series of Poker, filed a lawsuit on Thursday against a former Binion's Horseshoe employee over the usage of the acronym 'WSOP'.
Harrah's purchased the World Series of Poker when it bought the former Binion's Horseshoe in 2004, which literally allowed the tournament to be held that year. Since then, Harrah's has moved the event to the Rio All Suites Hotel and Casino and has ratcheted up the marketing of the event. Through an aggressive program of branding and expansion of the World Series to outside events (such as the World Series of Poker Circuit, which tours the United States at Harrah's properties) and an international market, Harrah's has taken the name of "World Series of Poker" and made it into a bona fide money maker for the corporation. Now, with the lawsuit, they are attempting to take back the Internet domain name "WSOP.com" from the gentleman who currently has ownership.
Federico Schiavio, who directed the information technologies department at Binion's Horseshoe, purchased the domain name a year before Harrah's took over Binion's and the World Series. He currently uses the "WSOP.com" domain name for a site called the World's Standard of Online Poker, which offers information for visitors regarding poker. He has also filed an attempt to trademark his site and looks to be on the way to creating an online poker site to further take advantage of his domain name.
The lawsuit which Harrah's has filed is claiming that Schiavio is profiting off of the name of the World Series and is also attempting to enter into the online gaming field, which has a multitude of gray area in the United States. The lawsuit continues on to ask for the revocation of Schiavio's ownership of the domain name and the transfer of the name to Harrah's, deny his application for trademark privileges of "WSOP" and approve their own request for trademark rights. Harrah's is also asking for unspecified damages to be paid by Schiavio.
This is a case that often happens in the online world, albeit not quite as much as it did in the early years of the Internet environment. Many people would buy specific names and then sell those domain rights to the highest bidder in what is called "cyber-squatting". Recently, however, when it comes to these domain name raiders, the decisions have gone to the potentially rightful owner because the "squatter" owner cannot prove a reason that they need the domain name.
Trademark rights are another issue, however. There is a Byzantine decision structure when it comes to deciding what is worthy of being trademarked and whether one person has rights over another (a famous trademark decision case was in whether Thomas Edison or Nikola Tesla invented radio, with the decision going to Tesla). This case, while maybe easy to judge on first look, could take some time to reach a decision and we'll keep an eye on continuing battle between Schiavio and Harrah's over who actually owns the "WSOP", in a sense.
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