In July of 2006, several famous poker players brought a lawsuit against World Poker Tour Enterprises, claiming that their player release form which all players must sign to enter WPT events violated antitrust laws.
The basis of this argument is that the player release form allowed WPTE the right to use the players’ names and images in any way that they so desired without the consent of the player and without giving them any financial compensation. The names and images could be used on websites, in commercials, or even in video games. The players claimed that using their names and images so would most certainly violate contracts they held with other companies to use their names and images, most notably online poker site Full Tilt Poker. They further went on to claim that this was part of WPTE efforts to reduce competition and violate the players’ intellectual property rights
World Poker Tour Enterprises has not backed down from their stance that they have done nothing wrong, but have made revisions to their player release form to settle the lawsuit after deciding they didn’t need to be involved in protracted legal matters. The revision was all the suing players needed to settle the lawsuit, as no money or any other form of compensation was exchanged.
The five players who settled the lawsuit are Chris Ferguson, Annie Duke, Howard Lederer, Phil Gordon, and Andy Bloch. All but Annie Duke are representatives of Full Tilt Poker, while Annie is a representative of Ultimate Bet. The lawsuit was originally filed by seven players, but Joe Hachem and Greg Raymer, former WSOP champions who both represented Poker Stars, dropped out of the lawsuit when the litigation dragged on longer than they had hoped. Joe Hachem has even won a WPT event since he dropped out of the lawsuit, earning $2.1 million for winning the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December of 2006.
In an effort to get the lawsuit cleared up in a fast and easy matter the players brought forward a motion for summary judgment in 2007, but that motion was denied and the lawsuit went on until the settlement was reached.
Chris Ferguson issued a statment about the settlement through a press release, saying “We are happy to have come to an agreement that is fair to all players, and to have put in place a new release that clears up ambiguities in how players’ images may be used. We are especially happy that this new release will apply to all poker players who wish to play in WPT tournaments and events. WPTE has created some of the best poker events in the world, and we are excited to participate in them once again.”
Steve Lipscomb, CEO of WPTE, had this to say: “We are glad to put this dispute behind us, and we look forward to working with all players to grow the sport of poker.”
This settlement ends an episode that many have considered to be the worst thing to happen to the proud image of the WPT.