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Can a company trademark/copyright a Mechanic?

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Milostnik
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Joined: 03/11/2017

Howdy ya'll

Just wanted to throw a question out there for you all.

Background: I started developing a brawling game that is really quick and fun to play with your friends. I wanted miniatures but decided while prototyping that I wanted to just make it cardboard squares from the top down perspective of the characters, with all the symbols and stats on the base as well.

When I described this to a friend they said it reminded them of "Heroes Of Normande", so naturally I checked it out.

There are similarities between the designs that I had (i.e the stats and symbols put on the cardboard square with a top down graphic of the character. Then when they are wounded you flip it over and the stats and graphic changes). I was kicking myself, especially because I started this idea out of a direct influence from X-Wing. but then at the same time decided to try find a really different combat mechanic and just have the presentation still similar but not try overly hard to change it (I mean how many CCG's have similar looking cards but different gameplay).

My only worry is, I have seen been keeping tabs on Devil Pig, trying to steer away from them on a design level if I see anything remotely similar. But I saw they have a symbol down the bottom called "Heroes System Tactical Scale" with a little Trademark logo, and the symbols that usually go on their little cardboard cutouts with the characters on them.

My question is; Can a board game company trademark something that is so simple as the layout of a stats on a cardboard cutout? I understand something like a twisting base from HeroClix, but the stats on the base aspect is something thats in most game, X-Wing, Star Wars Armada, Star Trek Miniatures etc etc.

Attached below is the poster of the TM Im referring to, and a picture of X-Wings bases.

gxnpt
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Joined: 12/22/2015
TM and R

The 3 logos are trademarked / registered
Games Workshop logo displays the R in a circle.
Heroes System Tactical Scale displays the TM.
The Devil Pig Games logo does not bother to display either of those.

Quote:
"A service mark is a word, phrase, symbol, and/or design that identifies and distinguishes the source of a service rather than goods. Some examples include: brand names, slogans, and logos. The term "trademark" is often used in a general sense to refer to both trademarks and service marks."

The copyright statement below that lists several logos etc and the usual generic claim for things not listed individually.

logo and copyright slice zoomed in 2x for easy reading
http://thesingularitytrap.com/hidden/logoslicebig.jpg

It does not appear that they are trying to claim any rights over the general order in which stats are lined up.

(Actual legality can only say not as I understand it but do not claim legal expertise.)

Dralius
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In MTG "Tapping a card", i.e.

In MTG "Tapping a card", i.e. turning it sidesway to show its used is coppy writed. There has been alot of disussion if that copyright would hold up if challaged.

questccg
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To be more precise

EDITED: It seems like a US patent lasts 20 years! This would mean that the WOTC patent is still in FULL force until 2019... My apologies for the confusion... I was under the impression that a US patent only last for 10 years.

It says 20 years as of the FILING date. The filing date is June 29, 1999.

I was mislead by someone else who told me that a patent lasted only 10 years. But from what I see it's 20 years instead.

Apologies for the confusion... The patent is still in effect.

The Odd Fox
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questccg wrote:EDITED: It

questccg wrote:
EDITED: It seems like a US patent lasts 20 years! This would mean that the WOTC patent is still in FULL force until 2019... My apologies for the confusion... I was under the impression that a US patent only last for 10 years.

It says 20 years as of the FILING date. The filing date is June 29, 1999.

I was mislead by someone else who told me that a patent lasted only 10 years. But from what I see it's 20 years instead.

Apologies for the confusion... The patent is still in effect.

Thanks for the explanation! These are the kinds of rumors that remain until correct information gets passed. I've heard people talk about avoiding the term for some time now (several times this year in fact). I'm glad to have the most updated information regarding the patent!

questccg
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Patent information

Patent: RE37,957
Author: Richard Garfield
Filing Date: June 29, 1999
Title: Trading card game method of play

Patent Database Search Link

Specify: pn/RE37,957

And it will give you Richard Garfield's patent on Magic: the Gathering. I believe the image on page #6 shows the Tapped/Untapped cards and there is if I remember correctly a CLAIM about "Tapping" (not 100% certain).

Just if you want to have a look at the patent yourself! Enjoy...

Note: This means that the patent would expired in 2019. I've had this discussion before with someone... And we thought it was in September not June. But the Patent Office says June 29 as the filing date...

questccg
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What is common use...

Although the term "TAP" may be protected under patent law, the application is not.

Other companies use the term "EXHAUST" or "exhausted"... instead of "tap".

Off the top of my head, I can't remember other TERMS - but there are others you may use which are also common knowledge/use. Sorry can't remember the other ones...

questccg
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The sections about tapping

questccg wrote:
Patent: RE37,957
Author: Richard Garfield
Filing Date: June 29, 1999
Title: Trading card game method of play

Patent Database Search Link

Specify: pn/RE37,957

And it will give you Richard Garfield's patent on Magic: the Gathering. I believe the image on page #6 shows the Tapped/Untapped cards and there is if I remember correctly a CLAIM about "Tapping" (not 100% certain).

Just if you want to have a look at the patent yourself! Enjoy...

Note: This means that the patent would expired in 2019. I've had this discussion before with someone... And we thought it was in September not June. But the Patent Office says June 29 as the filing date...

About the CLAIMS, they are 88 and 90 in Fig 3. They are covered in section #13 and #14 of the patent... Figured I'd look up the information since I had to do so for a friend. Oops... we were mislead thinking it was only 10 years...

The Professor
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The term may be protected but not the effect

In TAU CETI, we use "Employ" for the Specialists when used. Same idea...different term.

ssm
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Joined: 04/06/2017
Short answer: Yes. Long

Short answer: Yes.
Long answer: It can be difficult.

More important to me: anyone can slap a TM or C on just about anything, and it is mostly up to you to decide to take the time and money to get them to stop.

Trademarks & Copyrights are a maze of outdated & curious rules/laws. Trademarks & Copyrights are rarely valuable enough to take the fight to court (there are millions of them & the majority can not stand up in court, and are essentially useless).

I Will Never Gr...
I Will Never Grow Up Gaming's picture
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Joined: 04/23/2015
Trademark, Patent and Copyright..

First off, I am not a lawyer but from research;

The tl;dr version - Mechanics may be protected in some way (through patent) if they are innovative and/or unique, but it is rare and extremely expensive.

The Trademark of "Heroes System Tactical Scale" is (likely) referring to the name "Heroes System Tactical Scale (tm)" as Trademark (see below) is a "word, phrase, symbol or design".

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COPYRIGHT

Copyright protects printed works of artistic expression (70 years after creator's death (make sure you specify beneficiaries in your will).

You do NOT have to register a work for copyright protection, nor are you required to put a copyright notice on your work. You are automatically protected when your work is published (i.e. offered to the public).

Games, however, have virtually no coverage under US Copyright Law.

Copyright does not protect the idea for a game, its name or title, or the method or methods for playing it. Nor does copyright protect any idea, system, method, device, or trademark material involved in developing, merchandising, or playing a game.

Once a game has been made public, nothing in the copyright law prevents others from developing another game based on similar principles. Copyright protects only the particular manner of an author’s expression in literary, artistic, or musical form.

Material prepared in connection with a game may be subject to copyright if it contains a sufficient amount of literary or pictorial expression. For example, the text matter describing the rules of the game or the pictorial matter appearing on the game board or container may be register able.

ie: you can copyright your specific interpretation of rules and artwork.

TRADEMARK

A trademark is a word, phrase, symbol or design, or a combination of words, phrases, symbols or designs, that identifies and distinguishes the source of the goods of one party from those of others.

Thematic elements of games can be trademarks, names, character names, or even fictional tech terms.

Trademarks do not HAVE to be registered but are only as good as your willingness and ability to enforce it (Registered, for 10 years. Otherwise, as long as you use and defend it).

PATENT

Patents protect inventions (20 years (from date of filing, if filed after 1995), which for games translates into mechanics.

Unlike trademarks or copyrights, patents DO have to be registered.

pelle
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Joined: 08/11/2008
20 years for a patent is the

20 years for a patent is the maximum after you have paid to extend it once or twice. At least here (Sweden). It is only 10 (or 5 or 15 or something) initially, so they can end well before 20 years if the owner does not find it worth to extend it.

ssm
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pelle wrote:20 years for a

pelle wrote:
20 years for a patent is the maximum after you have paid to extend it once or twice. At least here (Sweden). It is only 10 (or 5 or 15 or something) initially, so they can end well before 20 years if the owner does not find it worth to extend it.

In the USA it is similar, using the Paris Convention. Some patents have no maintenance fees, but most have fees at 3.5, 7.5, and 11.5 years.

lewpuls
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I am not a lawyer

I read that this patent on Magic (tapping is a small part of it) had expired - the longest patents are 26 years as I recall, design patents may be shorter. So likely it did expire.

A patent only protects a particular expression, in a specific work, of an idea. It doesn't protect the idea itself. By law, game ideas cannot be protected.

But the US Patent Office is thoroughly screwed up because they self-fund, so you never know what they'll do in order to make more money.

A lawyer discussing this question said about 2/3 of patents that reach court are invalidated.

On my Game Design Channel:

Game Patents: a Waste of Your Money. https://youtu.be/7BByIE1LO2U

What is Intellectual Property (IP): https://youtu.be/Iv2wFvPN2EQ

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