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Advice for patenting and printing my first Educational Game

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spidey03
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Hi Everybody,
First let me just say that this forum is great. I have been reading a lot of the different forums and have found the people on this forum to be nice, helpful and full of knowledge.
I am a chemistry teacher and I have a number of ideas for games that would help my students review for tests. I need advice on patents. I have one of the games created and I am ready to play test the game. I am terrified that someone is going to steal my idea. How important is the patent? Should I patent before I play test? Is it really going to protect me? Here are three scenarios that I think that might play out:

1. I pay for a patent and some else decides or inadvertently makes the same game as me. I do not have the time or the money to stop him.
2. I pay for the patent and a bigger company decides that I need to C&D. I don't have the money or the time to fight them.
3. I don't patent and some else steals my idea and patents it and tells me to C&D.
Based on the first two scenarios I don't think the patent is worth it. Third scenario is the one I am really worried about.

Is it worth the money and time? Do I need a lawyer or can I do it myself? Am I worrying about nothing? Any advice from the experienced group? Should I be putting my energy into finding a printer or publisher and not worry about the whole patent thing?
I would love to post the idea to this forum but I have the paranoia about someone stealing my idea. No offense :) Am I being too cautious?

Thanks
Dan

dannorder
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Joined: 10/20/2008
Common question

This must be one of the most frequently asked questions.

First, let's get it out of the way: There is no way to protect an idea. Ideas cannot be owned, legally. You can have a great idea for a game, and there is nothing stopping anyone else from seeing it and using it too.

Patents really only protect novel procedures: specific step by step processes that have never been thought up before. You could file a patent and then find out someone else already had something similar before you and so the patent is invalid or have someone take the basic idea and make some modifications to the steps and use it with nothing you can do about it, legally.

Most game publishers big and small do not bother with patents, as they are expensive and of very limited use.

ReneWiersma
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Joined: 08/08/2008
What Dannorder said. You

What Dannorder said. You can't really protect your game idea.

The best you can do is find a publisher willing to publish your game. Publishers don't steal ideas, they are happy to pay you some royalties for your game idea.

ReneWiersma
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To put things into

To put things into perspective. Let's assume you have designed a game, you have playtested it, it is well received by your family and friends and now you are looking to get it published by a publisher.

Suppose your average game idea has about 20% chance of ever getting published. This is very generous, but I'm assuming you are an experienced game designer whose designs are generally pretty good. Most beginning amateur designers drastically overrate their designs, so the actual number is probably < 1% (all the protos of Monopoly and Parchisi clones game publishers around the world receive and throw away on a daily basis).

Now suppose an average game will generate designer royalties of around $4.000. Again, fairly generous, I think. Most of the time you'll be happy with less than that. The margins in the board game world are pretty slim and new games that sell huge are simply very rare.

Anyways, using this number we can see that the net worth of the average game idea of an experienced game designer is $800. This is definitely the upper-limit for the average game idea. Most game ideas are worth less than that. Given this number we can see that it is not worth it to patent the average game design, because patents cost a lot more than $800 as far as I know.

If you are certain that you have the next Magic: the Gathering in the works, then maybe, just maybe it is worth looking around for some legal protection. But you can never be certain, and most of the time you'll be wrong and waste money. If you are a publisher in the main stream market, things might be different, but then you wouldn't be asking this question on this forum ;)

InvisibleJon
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Joined: 07/27/2008
Patents also protect novel mechanical components...

What everyone else said, and...

Note that if your game has a novel mechanical component, like a pop-o-matic bubble or special interlocking blocks (Legos), you could also file for a patent.

Typically, games are protected by copyright, and the components that are protected are art, layout, and exact text.

Best of luck with your game!

spidey03
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Joined: 10/26/2010
I think I see the light

Thanks for the responses. Dannorder's comment about this question being the most common caused me to search patents on this forum. Dannorder was completely correct. There were tons of questions and answers. I think I am understanding the differences between patents and copyright. I have given up the idea of patenting my game for now. I don't think the mechanics are that different from other games. The difference is that I have included a component that helps students review. I am definitely going to look into copyrighting my game. I am also going to share the game with every for more input. Thanks for the awesome advice. This forum rocks!

dannorder
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Copyright

spidey03 wrote:
I am definitely going to look into copyrighting my game.

Under modern copyright laws, once you make a creative product and put it into fixed form and show it to others it is already covered by copyright. Paying to register it gives some added protection but is not necessary.

As InvisibleJon was explaining above, that will cover your specific art, the wording of the text in the rules, and so forth. Of course people can use that same idea and come up with their own art and different wording, but that's just how things go.

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