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Monopoly and Intellectual Property. Help! What would you do?

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ExplodingDesk
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First, keep in mind, when I say "what would you do," assume that you don't hate my idea in the first place, but rather it's your idea and you want to see it come to life.

So, I want to create and self publish a set of alternative cards for Monopoly or any other -Opoly type game. You could use my cards instead of the standard cards, and pick up/use my cards when you land on those spaces. The cards would give players more choice than is available in Monopoly, as they would provide actions that you could take when you chose to take them. For instance, "Use this card instead of rolling. Move up to 10 spaces forward."

I'm really trying to do my homework as to whether or not this is ok. It feels ethically ok to me for sure. I met with an intellectual property lawyer today, but I still don't know what I should do moving forward.

From what I gather, the more successful I am the more likely Parker Brothers is to be mad. And if Parker Brothers does get mad, they may or may not be able to make me change things. I can take steps now to ask and see if they say yes to me making something compatible with their game. But they will most likely ignore me.

So, what would you do in my situation?

Send Parker Brothers a letter asking them if I can mention that my product is compatible with their game? What would this letter look like? Think it will work?

questccg
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The problem

What I see as being the MAJOR problem is that you are creating new game options for someone else's game. If it was your game and you created expansions that would be okay.

But in your case you are trying to create "game packs" (for lack of a better term) for an existing game. This is sort of what kids sometimes do with the games they play: they create their own rules and change the game.

My advice to you is steer clear from designing "game packs" for someone else's game (Monopoly and Parker Brothers).

Instead I would focus on designing your OWN board game.

If Parker Brothers hasn't changed the rules for Monopoly and the game is still successfully sold today - well that says something about the game... People enjoy it as is...

Creating derivative works based on existing board games is not a road worth travelled. Think about how hard it will be to find a publisher?! "Well you see it's to be used with Monopoly". Just starting off with that will send publishers in the opposite direction...

And think about how you will be marketing the game. The first thing you will need to do is explain that "it's to be played with Monopoly". Right there, that's where you have a problem...

You can't legally sell/market your game UNLESS you state that it is to be used by Monopoly... Otherwise how will people know what your "game packs" are for?!

donut2099
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http://www.google.com/url?sa=

http://www.google.com/url?sa=t&source=web&cd=4&ved=0CCoQFjAD&url=http%3A...

I think you're fine as long as you don't infringe on any of the Parker Brothers trademarks. This add-on is certainly not a licensed product. I'm pretty sure you can legally say 'this is an add-on for Monopoly' as long as you don't claim to own monopoly or use monopoly art etc.

questccg
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???

donut2099 wrote:
I think you're fine as long as you don't infringe on any of the Parker Brothers trademarks.

Isn't referring your product as being an "Add-On to Monopoly" - and therefore using the Monopoly name an infringement on the Parker Brothers trademark of "Monopoly"? You're banking on the name "Monopoly" to help sell your product.

I don't know but to me that seems like a form of infringement.

donut2099
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Apparently Hasbro felt the

Apparently Hasbro felt the same way and tried to block this product from being sold, but unsuccessfully . It looks like this RADGames got a patent for their idea of putting another gameboard on top of a gameboard, so I'd watch out for that one too ;) As for publishing, you may be right about publishers not wanting to have any thing to do with it. If its just new cards, i'd put it out as a print n play and if people liked it, your name is on it and that can only be good.

questccg
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Self-Publishing

donut2099 wrote:
...if its just new cards, i'd put it out as a print n play and if people liked it, your name is on it and that can only be good.

I think that's a good point: have a Kickstarter to make the game and then use something like The Game Crafter (TGC) to produce and ship the entire order (bulk-wise)... Like you said, then you can see how many people like the concept (by the number of contribs) and maybe can have extra sales through TGC.

McTeddy
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While I usually lean towards

While I usually lean towards "The company will crush you..." I'm not so sure on this one. If the product REQUIRES the original game and is clearly stated as unofficial... I'm not sure they'd go after you.

That said, it is questionable. Because you would be profiting off of the popularity of their game... they likely have the law on their side.

If I was you... I wouldn't even bother. When you even have a question of legalities... the bigger budget will usually win. I highly doubt that'd be you.

You'd save yourself alot of trouble by making a full game and selling it as a standalone. It's not like monopoly is a highly complex game and you can create a similar game easily enough.

Otherwise, just make these free printable add-ons. I rarely see companies go after fan made updates online. They are more worried about people profiting because that actually damages their ip.

Making it an add-on and charging for it will look more like you are trying to profit off of their successful product... which means that they probably have strong legal grounds for tearing you apart.

questccg
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Professionally made

McTeddy wrote:
...Making it an add-on and charging for it will look more like you are trying to profit off of their successful product... which means that they probably have strong legal grounds for tearing you apart.

That's why I think self-publishing and using The Game Crafter is a good alternative. You can sell the game at near cost - but still have a professional looking game. We all know a Kickstarter will have 200-500 contribs and TGC says having 100 units sold is a good seller.

So this isn't massive distribution and you can still put together a professional looking add-on.

ExplodingDesk
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Thanks for your responses.

Thanks for your responses. This gives me a lot to think about. First, I want to look into the add ons game and their legal process. But I do like the idea of doing a simple print and play or using The Game Crafter. I'll let you know what I end up deciding!

questccg
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Some more information

Check out this link on BGG: http://boardgamegeek.com/thread/608132/monopoly-copyrighted

Also talking with other designers at The Game Crafter (TGC) you would NOT be permitted to produce a BOX that says "Monopoly" on TGC. You would have to use something like "An -opoly expansion". Something to *hint* at what the expansion is used for but not explicitly say "For Monopoly".

TGC will not allow that...

Roll For Surprise
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idea?

Hi there,

Your idea sounds like a great one.

Your IP attorney could find out the copywrite standing for monopoly. Also other companies are making the OPOLY games so I suspect that the copywrite has expired.

If that is a no go, you might try getting a liscense from them to use their material.

good luck with your game.

munio
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have you considered sending

have you considered sending the hasbro legal department an email?

jeffinberlin
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Fan Fiction

I would equate what you're doing to "Fan Fiction" in the book industry. Some amateur writers take the characters and situations from their favorite novels and write new stories about them, offering them for free online. Most writers and publishers don't object to this, as it only helps create a broader fan base.

If what you are doing is for fun as a fan of the game, and you are offering your variant/expansion for free, than I do not think the creators and publishers of Monopoly will have a problem with it.

If, however, you want to make a profit by creating an unauthorised expansion to a hit game, that is different. You might "get away with it" and you might not. Even if you win a court case, you could lose a lot of time and money fighting it. And your expansion is not likely to generate the kind of money that you would need to defend your position.

Making variants for known games is a useful tool for learning game design. Probably all game designers started out that way. But as some point, every designer needs to learn how to create games that stand on their own. I would encourage you to do that. Use this as a design "exercise" and then move on to designing your own game. Monopoly is a classic game, but it is old and outdated. Why else did you think you needed to change it?

What is it about Monopoly that you wanted to change? Why not take that one thing and make it the core of your own game? There is an infinite number of ways you can create a game about acquiring, trading and developing properties,if that is what you like about Monopoly. Eliminate the stuff you don't like (for me, it's rolling dice and moving around a board). Settlers of Catan, for example, is a well-known game that has a lot of the elements of Monopoly (acquiring resources through dice rolling, then building and developing) but is a completely different game.

If you can't get away from the mechanics of Monopoly, then look at other modern games to see what kind of new mechanics are out there. That will open your mind to what's possible!

If, however, you really only play Monopoly and don't have aspirations to be a game designer, then have fun producing variants for you favorite game, and make them available to other fans as a free print-n-play.

You do have to realise, though, that it's not really your game--it's "fan fiction."

jeffinberlin
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a personal example

Here is an example of a game that gave me an idea for a completely different game:

Last week I spent a fun evening with friends playing games. They introduced me to "Killer Bunnies," which was definitely NOT my type of game. It had a lot of rules (written on each card) but very little strategy--lots of work without any really pay-off. Worse yet, I lost my bunny on the first turn to a random event and was unable to draw a new bunny for the rest of the game. Basically, I watched everyone else play cards (well, not everyone, because several other players had the same misfortune as I did).

BUT there was one card that a player used to place a "bounty" on another player's bunny. If any other player killed that bunny, they would get the bounty that the first player placed.

I thought out loud, "Now THAT's a cool mechanic that I could build a game around!"

I told my friends that my miserable game experience would be worth it if I could make a cool game about outlaws and bounty hunters, where players tried to kill off opponent's outlaws by making them more attractive to opponent's bounty hunters, and at the same time, collecting bounties from other players and keeping one's own outlaws alive and active.

I could have tried to design new cards for "Killer Bunnies" to make the game more to my taste, and that would be fine (especially if I was forced to play it again), but I wouldn't be able to sell that as my own game (although, I could always pitch it to the original publisher for a future expansion pack).

Instead, however, I took a single element I liked, expanded only on that, and started to create a completely different game.

Shoe
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ExplodingDesk wrote:Thanks

ExplodingDesk wrote:
Thanks for your responses. This gives me a lot to think about. First, I want to look into the add ons game and their legal process. But I do like the idea of doing a simple print and play or using The Game Crafter. I'll let you know what I end up deciding!

Generally, when i see other designers do something like this, they do it as a freebie print and play to simply get traffic to thier website so that they can then publish something of thier own.

Giving away free print and play designs is a common marketing tool in indie game design.

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