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Patent Infringement?

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Toledo N
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Joined: 01/03/2014

I have recently created a German Style-Warfare game and am in the process of prototyping/playtesting it. There are, however, similarities to both Settlers of Catan and Risk in my game. I have made a mock up board and cards to my game out of foam board and construction paper but would like to make a more official looking prototype for more extensive playtesting.
Before I have a more official prototype made I want to make sure that I am not infringing of either Catan's or Risk's patents. Does anyone have any ideas to make sure that neither of these companies could accuse me of patent or copyright infringement?

anonymousmagic
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Joined: 11/06/2013
First of all, from what I

First of all, from what I understand the fundamental definition of "German Style" it is by that definition not a warfare game. Do with it what you will, but people seem to throw around the words german style and eurogame so often, that I feel obliged to make you think what it actually means.

As for the patent question: what are those similarities? There are plenty of resource games with hex tile boards, which don't seem to infringe on any patents. I don't even know if they have any patents regarding those games. Even if there are, patents are very specific depending on the exact wording.

As for copyright infringement, that's a lot easier to determine, when I see a couple of photographs of the board, components, and cards and have the game's name and a rulebook in front of me, I have enough information for that (and to determine if any trademarks are infringed upon.

Toledo N
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Joined: 01/03/2014
I called it a German style

I called it a German style game because it has the trading of resources and building cities and such. So, I guess I used the term loosely.
In my game the trading and building of resources and settlements are what I thought would be too close to Catan. Although there arent any hex tiles I thought that building settlements would be too similar to Settlers. Also rolling for battles with three dice for the offender and two for defense I thought might have infringed on risk.
As for copyright, I think that the board are different enough (my board is not even Earth) that I think It would not have any problem with Risk but I cannot be certain.
All resource cards have different images on them but some are the same resources as Catan (Wood, Ore).
I do not know how different a rule book would have to be to make sure it is different enough.
I was most concerned about rolling for resources and buying structures with them upsetting Catan

wazzajack
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Joined: 11/28/2013
Game protection

Just as a book is covered by copyright the same applies to board games as I understand it.
Your board design art and the rules written by you are your copyright.
Even though there may be similarities to another it would depend on the degree.
How many fictional books would be written with the same sort of basic plot?
Plenty, but the rest of the storyline doesn’t have to be a whole lot different to avoid copyright infringement.
Patency protection in a board game would totally unlikely unless it had some unique and innovative three dimensional physical element/s that you were certain that no one else had invented previously.
Trademarks and branding are more about protection for you and others trading goods in a similar market and only become important if you build a major reputation or good name. So it’s very important to make sure if trading under your game name that no one else has it registered.
Word trademarks can be particularly difficult. One reason that all those major brand names don’t describe the goods they trade is to avoid conflicting with trademarks in the same industry.
What’s an apple got to do with a computer?

Regards, Warren.

pelle
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In addition, if there ever

In addition, if there ever were patents on anything in Risk or Settlers, patents never last longer than 20 years.

Luckily patents on boardgames are rare and easy to avoid. Copyrights is only a problem if you write the same text or copy images from a game. Trademarks is only a problem if you use a (variation of) an existing game-name. In practice do what everyone else do and use whatever inspiration you find in other games plus a little common sense.

jvallerand
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Joined: 10/12/2013
With the number of games that

With the number of games that are actually the same (Forbidden Island vs Pandemic, Conquest of Nerath vs Axis and Allies, Citadels vs half of Faidutti's other games), you won't get into trouble for taking a bit from other games. Worried about taking a mechanic from a game? Actual clones of other games have been published. Just don't use the word "tap" in your rules, and you'll be fine.

That being said, I recommend playing multiple games first before you actually go into designing your game: while I don't want to be condescending, people who come here and base their games around games such as Settlers and Risk have not played enough games to be able to bring something new to the community. I might be wrong about your gaming background, and I might be wrong about your prototype, but it's still some important advice.

Toledo N
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Joined: 01/03/2014
Thanks for the feedback. I

Thanks for the feedback.
I have played i think a normal amount of games but will spend more time trying to make my game unique.

ReneWiersma
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As far as I'm aware there are

As far as I'm aware there are no patents on any of the mechanic of Settlers of Catan. You could theoretically make a clone of Settlers and get away with it if you made new artwork, rewrote the rules in your own words, etc, and avoid any copyright infringement. Perhaps change the core mechanic of rolling two six-sided dice into two eight-sided dice, change the names of the resources from Wheat and Ore, etc, into Corn and Iron, just to be sure, and you are in the clear.

Who knows, you might still get sued just for the heck of it, and you might want to cough up some money for a settlement (haha), rather than go into a lengthy lawsuit with an unclear outcome.

Also, what is the point of cloning an existing game? It's not likely you'll make a huge amount of money from it, as most people will probably go for the original anyway.

A more interesting case is where you make a non-official expansion for a successful game like Settlers. Of course, how are you going to market an expansion for Settlers of Catan if you aren't allowed to mention the trademark "Settlers of Catan" or any of its recognizable imagery? :)

So, basically, that's a long winded way of saying that you probably shouldn't be worrying about these things too much, as long as you are not making an exact clone of an existing game.

wazzajack
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Joined: 11/28/2013
Unique

Yes unique is the right word and the way to think.
As the last post points out you need to avoid having your game appear like a clone of one that already exist.
That’s not to say that you can’t use simular mechanics but if you can introduce elements different enough so it stands alone with its own identity you’d be on the right track.

wazzajack
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Joined: 11/28/2013
Unique

Yes unique is the right word and the way to think.

As the last post points out you need to avoid having your game appear like a clone of one that already exist.

That’s not to say that you can’t use simular mechanics but if you can introduce elements different enough so it stands alone with its own identity you’d be on the right track.

wazzajack
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Joined: 11/28/2013
Unique

Yes unique is the right word and the way to think.

As the last post points out you need to avoid having your game appear like a clone of one that already exist.

That’s not to say that you can’t use simular mechanics but if you can introduce elements different enough so it stands alone with its own identity you’d be on the right track.

BENagy
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Joined: 09/25/2013
Due to US Copyright Law

Due to US Copyright Law FL-108, board games themselves, mechanics, ideas, etc, are NOT subject to copyrights. Rule books and written materials are copyrightable when copyrighted word-for-word. In other words, technically, If you made a game that was an exact copy of Settlers of Catan (Space Catan, for an example), and called it Space Expansion, you're legally safe. But you will be crucified by the community of gamers. And you're doing a crappy job of game-building, obviously, which I'm sure you don't want to do.

My gauge if I feel a game is too similar, is to ask myself one question: "If my game feels like [Catan], why would gamers want to buy/play my game, rather than just buying/playing [Catan]?"

Merging two ideas might be adequate. If so, proceed. Otherwise, figure out how to answer that question.

lewpuls
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In my experience, designers

In my experience, designers vastly overrate innovation, partly because they don't understand how many games have used their "innovation" that they never heard of.

Commenters are correct, you are most unlikely to need to worry about patents. Trademarks are more likely to trip you up. There are places you can search trademarks, and you can find patents, too, but trying to find one you might be violating would likely be difficult.

You might be interested in:
Innovation is Highly Overrated: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHZVsRpIWCA

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