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Rival factions of Spartan Poker planning to file lawsuits, trademark objections, no end to dispute in sight

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Exclusive The battle between two factions of Spartan Poker is set to get ugly, with the Pokerguru-faction led by Rajat Agarwal planning to file a lawsuit in Kolkata against the promoters of the Indian Poker Championship (IPC)-faction of Spartan Poker.

On 4th December,2016, a public notice was posted on SpartanPoker.com, stating that Pokerguru had no control over the operations of Spartan Poker and that legal action was to be initiated against Rajeev Kanjani, Rohit Bhalla, Peter Abraham, Sameer Rattonsey, Amin Rozani and Quadrific Media Pvt. Ltd. Within a few hours, the IPC-faction claimed that they were the real owners of the Spartan Poker brand and claimed to have shifted the domain name to TheSpartanPoker.com

Interestingly, the very next day after this public notice (on 5th December), Rohit Bhalla, who is associated with Pokerguru, was removed as the director of Quadrific Media in the company’s Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM). Sameer Rattonsey and Peter Abraham are the only two shareholders of Quadrific Media, with each owning 50% stake, as per ROC records. Apart from Rajeev Kanjani, Peter Abraham, Sameer Rattonsey and Amin Rojani (Rozani); Rajat Agarwal and his father Bal Krishan Agarwal are listed as directors of Quadrific Media. Until recently, Quadrific Media’s registered office operated from a space leased by Bal Krishan Agarwal.

Notably, three days after Bhalla was removed as the director of Quadrific Media, the IPC-faction of Spartan Poker floated a new company, Spartan Online Pvt. Ltd., which seems to be operating the new website TheSpartanPoker.com. Rajeev Kanjani, Peter Abraham, Sameer Rattonsey and Amin Rojani (Rozani) are listed as directors of this new company.

Due to these sudden changes in the ownership and management of Spartan Poker, many questions relating to intellectual property rights and corporate governance norms remain unanswered. The first question that remains unanswered is the transfer of assets and liabilities, including player deposits and reserves from Quadrific Media to Spartan Online.

The second important legal issue is whether the removal of Rohit Bhalla as a director of Quadrific Media was legal and whether he was served with a notice of his removal and given an opportunity of being heard in accordance with Section 169 of the Companies Act, 2013. The minutes of the EGM indicates that the resolution passed by Quadrific Media is perfunctory in nature that neither provides details leading to his removal nor records whether he was given an opportunity of being heard.

Another critical and perhaps most important issue is the ownership of the intellectual property and trademark relating to the ‘Spartan Poker’ brand. Both factions claim to operate rival websites with the name ‘Spartan Poker’. However, it is unclear as to who is the owner of the trademark and intellectual property rights of the brand ‘Spartan Poker’.  A public search on the government of India trademark registry indicates that both Rajat Agarwal and Quadrific Media have applied for Trademark of ‘Spartan Poker’ under Classes 41 (entertainment and gaming category) and other classes.

However, the applications of neither parties has been approved by the Controller General of Patent Designs and Trademarks. The registration of the ‘Spartan Poker’ trademark has not only been objected upon examination but has also been opposed by concerned parties, indicating that there would be a lengthy legal battle for the ownership of the Spartan Poker brand.

For the record, both Rajat Agarwal and Amin Rozani declined to give any comments. “If and when details have to be mentioned (regarding the dispute), the same would be made public on SpartanPoker.com” said Agarwal.

It seems that the dispute between the two factions will now have to be settled by a competent legal authority and the online poker community is likely to witness a long and protracted litigation.

Jay has researched extensively on gaming laws and has been cited by various media houses and journals as an expert. He has helped leading newspapers in their stories on gaming laws. Jay completed his B.A. LL.B. (Hons.) degree from NUJS, Kolkata in 2015 and is currently based out of Mumbai.