By Andy Metzger
STATE HOUSE NEWS SERVICE
STATE HOUSE — Maura Healey, an anti-casino candidate for attorney general who has cast herself as the candidate unburdened by political ties, suggested her primary opponent should sell patents in an online gaming company, though her opponent said there are no patents and he has cut all ties with the company.
At an Aug. 7 debate at Mount Ida College, in Newton, Healey and her Democratic opponent Warren Tolman, pitched themselves as defenders of the public trust while disagreeing over whether Tolman owns any patents. Tolman in May announced he had cut ties with the online gaming company Fast Strike Games.
“I bring complete independence to an industry that really has infiltrated deep and wide across the Commonwealth,” Healey told the audience. “I’m glad to hear Warren say that he’ll take those actions as attorney general, but I certainly hope, Warren, that you sell the patents that you have in the online gaming company that you’re involved in, because I think that is important if you’re going to be attorney general.”
“Sure, Maura. I don’t have any interest in the endeavor to which you are referring, period, the end,” Tolman responded. When Healey suggested he has three patents, Tolman said, “There are no patents, Maura. Zero. Not three, not two, not one. There are zero. Period, the end.”
Tolman’s name appears as an inventor on three patent applications, which are distinct from actual patents, and Tolman’s campaign manager said Tolman would have no financial interest in the patents if they are approved.
“This is another example of Maura Healey resorting to misleading attacks instead of talking about the issues voters care about. Candidates for Attorney General should be held to a higher standard of accuracy since they are running to be the state’s top law enforcement officer. In this latest attack, Healey has not met that standard,” campaign manager Chris Joyce said in a statement. “To be clear, Warren Tolman has fully divested himself of the interest in the company. In addition, no patents have been approved and Warren will have no interest in them if they ever are approved.”
Healey’s campaign said the Fast Strike patent applicants are for inventions that would make online gaming more appealing to young people, and campaign spokesman Dave Guarino said, “We will accept the correction to patent pending but if that is Warren Tolman’s only defense for his youth online gambling patents, it’s pathetic.”
Christopher Sullivan, vice president of the Massachusetts Bar Association, said inventors have to appear on the patent application, and can only be removed from the patent if the patent that is approved by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office no longer includes that person’s contributions.
“The only way you could do it is say I made a mistake I’m not the inventor,” said Sullivan, who said to appear on a patent application inventors sign under oath that they contributed to the novelty. He said, “A patent has to have the individual inventors name on it.”
Tolman’s camp maintains he has no financial ties to the company. Sullivan said a name appearing on a patent doesn’t necessarily mean that the person has the rights to collect royalties from that patent, and it is commonplace for employees to have signed over the licensing rights to their company while appearing as the inventor on a patent.
It is less common for patents to become political fodder.
“I really haven’t seen anything like that before. Usually patents aren’t particularly controversial,” Sullivan said.
Guarino said Tolman “is trying to play a typical Beacon Hill game of semantics,” and said the candidate should provide proof that he no longer has any financial stake in Fast Strike.
“The truth is, the voters don’t know the details of this deal and the status of these patents, his ownership stake and whether he has, in fact, divested unless Warren Tolman provides the proof. He can end this by just being clear with voters and showing what his interests are or were and what the status is of his gaming invention.”