Several exercise machines manufactured by ICON Health & Fitness, Inc., which permit a person to play blackjack, poker, and other games while exercising, don’t infringe patents held by Fitness Gaming Corp. (FGC) for a device that combines an electronic game of chance and a piece of exercise equipment. This was the decision of U.S. District Judge Claude M. Hilton of the Eastern District of Virginia in an August 12, 2011, ruling on ICON’s motion for summary judgment of non-infringement.
FGC had sued ICON for patent infringement, but the judge found, reviewing both the language of the patent and its prosecution history, that this claim had no substance and that as a matter of law, ICON hadn’t infringed the patents. “The specification and prosecution history make clear what the claims require as a matter of law, and FGC has no evidence that the accused devices have what the claims require,” Judge Hilton wrote.
The key point was that in obtaining the patent, FGC carefully specified that the patents involved a “combination of an electronic game of chance device and a piece of exercise equipment.” FGC’s patent application specifically equated the term “electronic game of chance device” with the term “legalized gambling device.” The prosecution history showed that FGC made this limitation in order to respond to objections from the patent office that an existing patent, involving the combination of exercise equipment and a video display showing the progress of a bicycle on a track, had anticipated FGC’s patent and that FGC had therefore applied for something that wasn’t novel. FGC, in its own words, said that it only wanted a patent on an exercise machine that was combined with a gambling device.