Sunday, March 20, 2005

Florida company Enpat takes interests in patents

from Florida Today:

One of the latest trends in casino gambling has its roots in Brevard County.

The trend is casino betting chips embedded with tiny radio-frequency identification devices. The chips allow casinos to monitor gamblers' betting habits, as well as deter card-counting and fraud.

Melbourne-based Enpat Inc., headed by lawyer Eric Neitzke, recently sold two patents for the radio-frequency identification device, or RFID, technology to Shuffle Master Inc. for $12.5 million.

Shuffle Master Inc., based in Las Vegas, is a gaming-supply company that provides items such as poker tables and automatic card shufflers to casinos.

"The purchase of these patents demonstrates our commitment to bring reliable and integrated RFID technology to market for the benefit of our casino customers," said Paul Meyer, president and chief operating officer of Shuffle Master.

Neitzke is a lawyer who was corporate vice president for litigation at Harris Corp. from 1983 to 1995.

He founded Enpat in 1995 to provide assistance to patent owners who believe their patents are infringed.

He also buys an interest in the patents if, like in the case of the RFID gambling chips, he sees commercial merit.

The two inventors of the RFID gambling-chip technology, John French and Bill Piehl, contacted Neitzke after coming across his Web site,, in 1998.

To him, the merits of the technology seemed obvious. And the patents' claims were easy to understand, meaning, if he ever had to make his case before a jury, he could do it without a lot of cumbersome legalese.

Neitzke wouldn't disclose his agreement with French and Piehl.

Neitzke noted he carefully scrutinizes all requests for his services.

"I get a couple serious inquiries a month, but I take on very few of them," Neitzke said. "It takes a lot of work, and it's a big investment of resources."


The patent in question is US 5,651,548, issued July 29, 1997, entitled "Gaming chips with electronic circuits scanned by antennas in gaming chip placement areas for tracking the movement of gaming chips within a casino apparatus and method."

As of March 20, 2005, the '548 patent has been cited by 34 US patents, most recently 6,755,655 entitled "Electronic educational toy appliance and a portable memory device therefor."

The first claim of the '548 recites:

1. An apparatus comprising:

a plurality of gaming chips, each having an electronic circuit capable of transmitting information;

a gaming table having a game playing surface, said surface having indicia thereon adapting said surface for a game which uses at least one of said plurality of gaming chips;

said surface having at least one gaming chip placement area therein; and

an antenna for obtaining information from a gaming chips located on said gaming chip placement area.


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