Macau’s Court of Final Appeal has sided with Las Vegas Sands Corp – the parent of local gaming operator Sands China Ltd – allowing the firm to register the ‘FAB’ trademark in Macau.
The ruling, made on October 23, came after Macau market rival gaming operator Galaxy Entertainment Group Ltd opposed to the registry.
FAB is short for ‘Fast Action Baccarat’, an accelerated version of baccarat (pictured) developed by Sands China. The game first debuted at casino resort Venetian Macao in 2012.
Usually, nine players are seated at a traditional baccarat table. A Fast Action Baccarat table has 28 betting positions, allowing up to 60 gamblers to play, though some remain standing. The gaming table is elliptical, its longest dimension measuring 6.4 metres. One round of betting typically takes about one minute.
Las Vegas Sands applied to the Macao Economic Services to register the FAB trademark in October 2012. Galaxy Entertainment opposed to the application in November 2013. The Economic Services in January 2014 decided not to allow Las Vegas Sands to register the trademark.
Las Vegas Sands took the case to court. After losing in the Court of First Instance, it appealed and got a favourable ruling from the Court of Second Instance. Galaxy Entertainment appealed to the Court of Final Appeal, but Macau’s top court sided with Las Vegas Sands.
Galaxy Entertainment claimed FAB did not meet the conditions spelt out in Macau’s trademark registry rules; namely it was not capable of distinguishing the new product offered by Las Vegas Sands. Galaxy Entertainment claimed FAB only indicated a new version of baccarat, not a particular product, and therefore could not be registered by any of the city’s gaming operators.
Macau’s top court noted that the point made by Galaxy Entertainment would only be valid if Las Vegas Sands was to register ‘Fast Action Baccarat’. Although FAB consists of the initials of ‘Fast Action Baccarat’, the acronym is not immediately recognised by most people as referring to a particular version of baccarat, the ruling stated.
The court acknowledged Las Vegas Sands could enjoy competitive advantages over other operators by owning the FAB trademark. That, according to the court, was due to the market already associating the trademark to the new baccarat version.
However, the ruling added that the association was not because of the trademark itself; it was because Las Vegas Sands had been the first gaming operator to introduce the new game to the Macau market, therefore its product having a first-mover advantage.
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”China has been strengthening the control over capital flow, and the impact of that has already been reflected [on Macau’s gaming revenue trend]. There should not be any bigger impact from the new… legislation [on the mainland] … on the gaming revenue trend here”
Wilfred Wong Ying Wai
President of Macau casino operator Sands China