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Skillz, a skill mobile gaming platform that facilitates real-money wagering among peer-to-peer players, was awarded $42.89 million on Friday. That’s after succeeding in its legal claims that rival AviaGames infringed on its patented protected platform.

A jury in San Jose, Calif., concluded that AviaGames, after partnering with Skillz to leverage its platform in a business-to-business arrangement, essentially stole the technology and modified it to its financial advantage. A juror, speaking on anonymity with, disclosed the jury was in agreement when handed the case that Avia games willfully breached Skillz’s patent.

The jury awarded us $42.9 million and found willful infringement. We’re very pleased with the verdict. It’s a step in the right direction to promoting fairness in our industry,” said Andrew Dahlinghaus, general counsel of Skillz.

The juror speaking with said the jury found AviaGames CEO Vickie Chen to be morally dishonest. The 22-year-old man, the youngest on the jury, said the group of 12 believed Chen and Avia “acted in bad faith.”

Defenseless Defense
AviaGames executives claimed the company hadn’t cloned Skillz’s platform in developing its Pocket7Games app, which the plaintiffs alleged was a “copycat” and “knockoff” of its software development kit (SDK).

The juror told during an interview on Saturday that Chen and other Avia execs’ testimony wasn’t convincing. The juror also took issue with Chen not taking the stand in the San Jose federal courtroom.

Instead, Chen’s previously recorded disposition was played in court and off the record for the jury. Avia has an office in Mountain View where its platform operates. But many of Avia’s C-suite personnel, including Chen, are based in China.

In a separate class-action lawsuit, Avia is accused of using computer bots to play against human players. The bots, the plaintiffs argue, allow the Avia platform to quickly pair a real human player in a head-to-head cash game. Skillz customers can face lengthy wait times before being matched during nonpeak periods.

Skillz’s patent involves the technology pairing like-skilled players. Avia said it had developed a technology called “historical playthroughs” that allowed competing players to play at different times. Skillz attorneys said Avia’s internal communications regularly referenced the use of bots through the code words “Cucumbers” and “Guides.”

The jury believed the “historical playthrough” term was developed solely for Avia’s legal defense, and that it was likely that computer bots were indeed used. Though the jury wasn’t tasked with reaching a verdict on the bot element, the group reasoned that their presence was further proof that Avia violated the Skillz patent to create an unfair, illegal playing field between the two competitors.

While the jury was in agreement that Avia was guilty of patent infringement, the juror said the financial award wasn’t as clear among the 12. After over eight hours of deliberations, the jury told Judge Beth Labson Freeman that it arrived at an award of $42,899,274.

Avia Legal Defense Only Beginning
AviaGames could appeal the Skillz verdict. But that presumably won’t be the company’s last day in court in its defense of Skillz’s claims, now proven factual by a federal jury. With the jury finding AviaGames in the wrong, the proposed class-action lawsuit brought by consumers who played Avia’s games will proceed.

Also filed in the U.S. Northern District of California, the consumer lawsuit claims Avia deceived players by using computer bots in what was an illegal gambling operation.

Instead of being games of skill as advertised, Avia’s games are manipulated games of chance that amount to an unapproved gambling enterprise,” the class-action litigation alleges. “This action seeks to hold Defendants responsible for their deceptive practices and, separately, their racketeering gambling enterprise.”

The attorneys representing the lead plaintiffs — former Avia players Andrew Pandolfi and Mandi Shawcroft — say the “class is so numerous that a joinder of all members … is impracticable.”

“There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of geographically dispersed Class members,” read the class action complaint. “The Class members can be readily identified and notified in an administratively feasible manner using, among other information, Defendants’ own electronic transactional records.”

The lawsuit means if you are an Avia customer wanting to join the lawsuit, you will likely be notified by mail of your ability to join.
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Tuesday, March 5, 2024
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