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Protecting a new concept and design?

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Anonymous

Doea any-one know of a fool-proof way to protect one's concept and design before approaching professional companies to see if they are interested? I've got a great game and know its' going to be a winner. I just want to make sure I'm the one that wins from it and that my idea doesn't just get nicked. Any advice would be much appreciated.

Nestalawe
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Joined: 08/07/2008
Protecting a new concept and design?

Quote:
I've got a great game and know its' going to be a winner. I just want to make sure I'm the one that wins from it and that my idea doesn't just get nicked

Hey!

Do you have a Great Game or a Great Idea? i.e. have you actualised your concept and have a fully playtested prototype ready to go?

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Protecting a new concept and design?

There is no foolproof way. Register your copyright, and work with companies that seem trustworthy. You'd be surprised how little theft of intellectual property occurs in game design. No one yet has been able to point me to someone's whose idea was flat-out stolen.

In this article -- http://www.costik.com/submit.html -- Greg Costikyan gives three good reasons not to worry, along with some other useful advice:

Quote:

1. Authors tend to win intellectual property suits. The law is pretty clear on these matters. If it comes to a lawsuit, a publishing company may have more financial resources than you, but if you have a halfway reasonable case, they can conceivably suffer very substantial damages. Few game ideas are worth that kind of risk.

2. Frankly, ideas are cheap. Any designer worth his salt comes up with a dozen ideas daily, very few of which wind up as games. What is not cheap is the ability to turn raw ideas into polished, well-written, and thoroughly professional product. If you can do the latter, you are virtually assured of being published. If all you have to offer are a few inchoate ideas, you will soon be shown the door. Few ideas are in themselves worth stealing.

3. Also, most would-be designers have an immensely inflated idea of the value of their games. (Here's a hint: if you have this great idea for a trivia game, forget it.) Not to be offensive, but it is quite possible that your idea has been considered and rejected a dozen times by the very person you are approaching to publish your game. What professionals consider old-hat often seems fresh and original to amateurs. ("My fantasy roleplaying game is just like D&D, only better!" Gosharoonie. What a concept.)

OrlandoPat
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Joined: 10/16/2008
Document, document, document

To augment point 1 in Fastlearner's post, I'll beat the same old drum that I always beat when someone brings this up.

Document every step of your design and testing process. If you are ever in a situation where you need to defend yourself legally, having all the documents will be invaluable. This takes virtually no effort. Just print out every interim version of the rules. Sign and date things. Keep playtest reports. Keep a couple folders for each game and keep all your development notes. Keep your scribbled notes on the design.

Being able to say "I have documented every step of the two year development process needed to bring this game to market" is tough to beat.

boardgamegeezer
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Advice

Sign date and send the rules to yourself by post.
Leave letter unopened.
Put away safe
Whatever you make you have automatic copyright. Patent is different and far more costly.

Give letter also to your solicitor attorney or bank.
make sure dated signed.

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Protecting a new concept and design?

My advice: Do not use a "poor man's copyright" (the sending it to yourself via post) in lieu of registering your copyright with the copyright office (in the US, http://www.copyright.gov has the info): you're only saving yourself $30, and though I've searched, I've yet to encounter anyone whose postmarked letter actually gave them any protection in court.

If you think about it, it would take extensive forensic work to prove that you didn't mail yourself a blank letter that was lightly taped shut (or similar) and inserted the copyrighted documents later, sealing the envelope a day before court. The postmark isn't really proving anything other than the fact that you mailed yourself an envelope (and even there it would take forensic work to prove the postmark was valid), and $30 (here in the US) actually proves something in court, guaranteed. It would cost a whole lot more than $30 to prove that envelope was meaningful.

-- Matthew

Anonymous
Protecting a new concept and design?

If you do not register the copyright you do not get statutory compensation if someone uses your idea. All you get is an injunction for them to stop using it. Furthermore if you go to court with an unregistered copyright you do not get compensated for your attorney fees, which will likel;y be expensive, so much so it might be better if you didnt go to court in the first place.

Josh

FastLearner
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Protecting a new concept and design?

Aye, excellent point, again made. For mediapuppetto, click the Search link above and type "copyright" -- you'll get all this and much more.

In a matter of mere months we'll havea wiki up, to direct people to answers to this most common of questions.

-- Matthew

Anonymous
Protecting a new concept and design?

Thankyou all for helpful answers! I'll follow up some of those tips. What I've got is a game, pretty fully designed and looking slick and professional, with a board, playing pieces and 'game currency' pieces all modelled and soon to be cast up, and full rules. We have been playing the prototype with friends for a few weeks, it's going down well and we are making fine adjustments to the rules to set the pace of play just right.

We have kept every scrap of paper, all versions of the design of the board and pieces etc, so we would have lots of evidence if it was needed to prove our ownership and development of the concept.

Have any of you guys actually sold designs and made money from it, or are you enthusiasts living in a fantasy-world? No offence meant, honestly! I am obsessed at present with this game, and getting it right.

Thanks again for your responses. They are much appreciated.

zaiga
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Joined: 12/31/1969
Protecting a new concept and design?

mediapuppetto wrote:
Have any of you guys actually sold designs and made money from it, or are you enthusiasts living in a fantasy-world? No offence meant, honestly!

You'll find game designers of all ranges here, from pure beginners to well-established pro's. Some of us are publishers, or work with publishers, some of us have gotten a designed published by a publisher, and some of us are pretty close to getting published. I think this community, after a few years, is starting to pay off. I guess you'll see more and more games published by BGDF members in the coming years.

Anonymous
Protecting a new concept and design?

Congratulations and good luck with your game!

FastLearner wrote:
Greg Costikyan gives three good reasons not to worry...
Quote:
3. Also, most would-be designers have an immensely inflated idea of the value of their games. (Here's a hint: if you have this great idea for a trivia game, forget it.) Not to be offensive, but it is quite possible that your idea has been considered and rejected a dozen times by the very person you are approaching to publish your game. What professionals consider old-hat often seems fresh and original to amateurs. ("My fantasy roleplaying game is just like D&D, only better!" Gosharoonie. What a concept.)

I think there's really no way to overstate this point. So many designers feel that their design (especially their first real design) is the next monopoly or better. The reality is that there are a ton of ideas out there and your idea may or may not be one of the better ones.

You won't know until you submit it to a game company for review, and don't be surprised if it takes a long time to get anywhere with it. Game companies get literally hundreds of submissions a year.

Bottom line, nothing is fool proof, but then the risk is not as great as many people think. Register your idea for a copyright and then get it out to game companies. Once your game is on the shelves and outselling monopoly, you can claim that you have invented the next monopoly!

Anonymous
Protecting a new concept and design?

I went and looked at registering copyright in the USA and it looks straight-forward and cheap which is good. I have the feeling that it might be better to appraoch American companies before British ones. Half the British companies seem to be owned by American ones anyway.

I am aware that I am probably wearing rose tinted spectacles about the project, which is the first board game I have designed, but I have enjoyed developing it very much and if all else fails it will be good for my design CV and has been good staff development, as I teach and now know Illustrator and Photoshop much better than I did before.
There doesn't seem to be a way of protecting the concept though, only the design, and I have been reluctant to register the design here in Britain because once registered the designs are in the public domain, for any-one from any-where to look at.

Thanks for the encouragement.

Anonymous
Protecting a new concept and design?

Quote:
There doesn't seem to be a way of protecting the concept though, only the design...

You're right about that. Intellectual property is very hard to register and protect without going overboard (patent). Copyright protection will give you the best protection for your purposes. Stick with that and you'll be safe (and you won't have to spend a ton of money).

Quote:
I am aware that I am probably wearing rose tinted spectacles about the project, which is the first board game I have designed...

Yeah, I know how that goes. I still think that my first board game is the next monopoly, but my exposure to the world of board games and design has lowered my opinion of monopoly considerably!

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