With the ever increasing popularity of wagering establishments, such as the HardRock Cafe in Tampa, Florida, many inventors have ideas for new methods of playing poker-style games, board games and bingo-type games with new variations of the playing rules. While the Patent Office has issued literally hundreds of utility patents for games and methods for playing games in the past, the opportunity of obtaining such patents will be severely limited in the future. Relying on a recent Supreme Court ruling (Bilski v. Kappos, 130 S.Ct. 3218 (2010), the Patent Office has established guidelines that will find in most cases that a new set of rules for playing a game is an abstract idea and not proper subject matter for obtaining a patent.
The chances of obtaining a utility patent for a method of playing a game are not totally foreclosed, however the rules for playing the game (as set forth in the patent application claims) need to be tied to a particular machine or apparatus. For example, a generic tally sheet to record game events is not sufficient. It is going to take a number of years to definitively find out how far the pendulum has swung.