More and more Europeans turn to their mobile phone to play a game or, if their national laws allow them to, place a bet. Since last September, even guests of certain Nevada hotels can place bets on their mobile devices –which is surprising to say the least, as online gambling is still strictly forbidden in the United States.
Undoubtedly the rise in mobile gaming is being propelled by the popularity of smartphones. The entertainment value of mobile games has increased significantly as the games have evolved from simple, pre-installed time-wasters to challenging and visually attractive amusements. Gambling operators as well as mobile phone companies are currently making huge efforts to be at the forefront of what is predicted to be the next commercial battle. Many are investing in mobile apps, innovative software and smartphone technology to make sure they will be part of this growing market.
The increasing use of mobile games does, however, mean operators and phone companies will be subject to more scrutiny by regulators and other relevant parties and there will almost certainly follow a rapid increase in lawsuits against businesses in the mobile gaming sector; legal cases affecting both developers and platforms. Until a year ago, patent infringement cases were mostly limited to legal battles between only the biggest in the industry, such as the on-going 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 becoming a headache for developers and businesses, alongside the data protection issues that have arisen. Moreover, there are still many advertising and marketing rules and guidelines which developers and businesses must stick to.
All this means a rapidly growing client base for many law firms, especially for those practices that offer advice on data protection, gambling and gaming, and TMT. These clients include some of the biggest players in the market; 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 and as one industry lawyer pointed out to me recently: ‘the more people play, the more our clients pay.’