Georgia Lottery Protected from Trademark Infringement Suit

Nov 22, 2011 - LegalZoom News Sources
The Georgia Supreme Court recently ruled the state lottery cannot be held accountable in a trademark case.

In a close decision, the Georgia Supreme Court recently ruled against two men who had filed a trademark infringement suit against the state's lottery.

At issue in the suit was the "MONEYBAG$" logo and game, which plaintiff George Kyle obtained a copyright for in 1995. Scientific Games, the company that creates games and prints tickets for the Georgia Lottery, secured a one-time use license to run a game of the same name between 1999 and 2002. However, in their suit, Kyle and his associate Frank Mantovitch alleged the lottery ran the game again in 2005 and 2007 without obtaining permission. Kyle and Mantovitch sought $5 million in damages.

While it acknowledged that the lottery did not seek permission to use the trademarked logo and name when it re-ran the MONEYBAG$ game, the Georgia Supreme Court ruled that because the lottery is an instrument of the state, it is protected by sovereign immunity from lawsuits such as this.

The Atlanta Business Chronicle quoted the majority opinion as stating the lottery enjoys this immunity because its "purpose, function and management" are "indelibly intertwined with the state."

While the Supreme Court upheld a previous appeals court ruling, the decision was a narrow 4-3. Writing for the minority, Justice Hugh Thompson argued that the lottery was created as an "entrepreneurial enterprise" separate from the state treasury, the Business Chronicle reported.

After plucking a ticket out of the trash, a 24-year-old man won $250,000 playing the Georgia Mega Millions on November 15.