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Patent and copyright questions

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ACG
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Joined: 12/31/1969

Hi! I'm getting close to finalizing my game and have a couple of questions.

1. Is it worth my while to get a patent or copyright? This is related to the next issue...

2. There's "artwork" in the sense that my cards have photographs I've taken on them from various trips I've been on. Most of them are of trees, airplanes, etc. However, there's a catch -- some of them are taken from inside museums and stuff, places where you are often only allowed to take pictures for personal use only. Originally they were intended for personal use (these trips were taken well before I even thought of developing games). What should I do in this case? Just copyright/patent the pictures which aren't from the museums?

I was debating appeasing any of the museums by having a list of places photographed as part of the rules -- and all of the museums get their names printed for free advertising.

What's the best thing to do here?

Thanks in advance,

ACG

VeritasGames
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Joined: 08/01/2008
Re: Patent and copyright questions

ACG wrote:
Hi! I'm getting close to finalizing my game and have a couple of questions.

1. Is it worth my while to get a patent or copyright? This is related to the next issue...

go to our company website and read the article on Game Law in the Game Design section.

http://www.veritasgames.net

Now, utility patents on games are fairly expensive to get and they cost a fair bit to maintain, so you should only get a patent if you think you've got the "next big thing".

You should definitely register a copyright because it's cheap to do. This is just going to give you some extra legal leverage in case somebody starts copying your game verbatim. However, it won't give you much protection at all from people who want to make a slightly modified knockoff of your game.

You can trademark your trade dress if you want.

Quote:
2. some of them are taken from inside museums and stuff, places where you are often only allowed to take pictures for personal use only. Originally they were intended for personal use (these trips were taken well before I even thought of developing games). What should I do in this case? Just copyright/patent the pictures which aren't from the museums?

OK, here's the scoop. If you took pictures of somebody else's art and distribute it, then unless the art is old enough to be in the public domain then you are guilty of copyright infringement. Period.

If, the art is old enough to be in the public domain then you are NOT guilty of copyright infringement, but you MIGHT run afoul of contract law. _IF_ the museum widely posts at the front door that no photography is allowed and you pay your fees and then take photos, then you've violated a contract and they MIGHT be able to get you for violating a contract. Whether a court would let them tag you just for the cost of admission or for a chunk of your profits, I really can't say without researching the case law.

As an FYI, you can't patent pictures. You really need to read our game law article and the associated glossary definitions on our website. Patents protect METHODS of doing things. Copyrights protect verbatim expression of text or photographs.

Technically as soon as you set something down in fixed form (like a photo), it is copyrighted, but your rights to file federal lawsuits are limited until you register the copyright.

Quote:
I was debating appeasing any of the museums by having a list of places photographed as part of the rules -- and all of the museums get their names printed for free advertising.

If you are doing that much, then simply go through the museum's legal and licensing division. Your life will be more complicated now, but MUCH easier later.

I guarantee that either they won't want to deal with you at all, or that they have a standard policy in place already for dealing with people who want to use photos of their art. They will probably act like photos of their art is worth more than it really is. If it's a famous piece of art, then chances are you can go to some stock photography or clip art sites and download some stuff. There's an article in our game design section on getting art for your game that has a few links to clipart sites on the net.

Be careful if you try to use somebody else's photo of art in the public domain. Technically, in many cases, such photographs may not have a lot of copyrightability to them if the underlying images are in the public domain. If, however, the photos are frames with lighting and angles that are unique, then the photos are copyrightable just as much as a photo of a tree -- only the value added portions receive copyright protection (not the underlying public domain materials).

Hope that helps. I am NOT a lawyer. So take what I'm saying with a grain of salt. That said, I've done a fair bit of research into this area.

Nando
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Joined: 07/22/2008
Re: Patent and copyright questions

VeritasGames wrote:
Now, utility patents on games are fairly expensive to get and they cost a fair bit to maintain, so you should only get a patent if you think you've got the "next big thing".
I know he didn't mean this. What he meant was..."you should only get a patent if you are crazy." ;)
Or you're...you know...Tom Jolly.

VeritasGames
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Joined: 08/01/2008
Patent and copyright questions

I meant what I said. Patents are quite expensive, and so if you aren't going into the mass market you should pretty much forget them in most cases. But if you are dropping $75,000 on developing and marketing your first launch, then maybe a patent is appropriate for that kind of big investment. Depends on the game. Many people are worried about getting their game "stolen". It is sometimes a worry, but honestly, chances are you also leveraged some mechanics from somewhere yourself, right? Really, most of the time you will be lucky to get a knock off of your game made. Why? Because chances are you are making quite a lot of money and have garnered a lot of attention. If anyone creates a knock off in any other circumstances, the chances are that they are "stealing" a percentage of next to nothing financially anyway.

Unless you spend a ton of money on marketing or sell your game to a larger firm, chances are that in the current market you won't make a ton of money.

Some people are actually spending money to buy market share away from Hasbro right now, and I can promise you that to do that you have to have hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars to spend.

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