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wpt.jpgWorld Poker Tour Enterprises has settled a lawsuit that was brought against them by seven well-known poker players for violating antitrust laws with their player release form. The lawsuit was brought form in July 2006 by Chris Ferguson, Annie Duke, Howard Lederer, Phil Gordon, Andy Bloch, Greg Raymer, and Joe Hachem.

The player release form that is the focus of this lawsuit gives World Poker Tour Enterprises the right to use the names and images of the players in any manner they see fit. The players receive no compensation for this use and must sign the player release form in order to participate in WPT events. WPTE can use players’ names and images for their commercials, websites, and even their video games. The players bringing the lawsuit against WPTE claim this is a violation of antitrust laws as the player release form seeks to eliminate competition and violate intellectual property rights as it could force players to break the terms of their contracts with other companies. Four of the seven players have contracts to represent Full Tilt Poker and were concerned that WPTE would use their names and images in ways that violated their contracts.

World Poker Tour Enterprises has been insisting ever since the lawsuit was filed that they have not done anything wrong. However, WPTE did not want the litigation to go on and become more of a hindrance so they decided to settle by revising their player release form to assuage the players’ concerns. The suing players have all agreed with the new player release form and settled without demanding any financial compensation.
Greg Raymer and Joe Hachem, who both represent Poker Stars, dropped out of the lawsuit after it couldn’t be resolved in a timely manner. The players had brought forth a motion in 2007 requesting a summary judgment, but the motion was denied and the lawsuit continued to drag on. Joe even played in some WPT events after dropping out of the lawsuit and won the WPT Five Diamond World Poker Classic in December of 2006, earning $2.1 million.

That left five players, Chris Ferguson, Annie Duke, Howard Lederer, Phil Gordon, and Andy Bloch to settle the lawsuit. Annie Duke represents Ultimate Bet while the other four all represent Full Tilt Poker.

In a press release about the settlement, Chris Ferguson said, “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.”

In his own statement, Steve Lipscomb, the founder and CEO of WPTE said, “We are glad to put this dispute behind us, and we look forward to working with all players to grow the sport of poker.”

Now that this lawsuit has been settled with changes being made to the player release form we can expect even more players to participate in WPT events.

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