I've been approached by a publisher interested in publishing 'Zombie Blitz' (http://boardgamegeek.com/boardgame/114404/zombie-blitz) which I currently have on BGG as a print and play game. This, of course, is exciting news, but I want to just get a sense of the possible legal issues with the game, since it clearly shows it's Dutch Blitz lineage.
The game is rethemed, and there are quite a few mechanical changes, but anyone that has played Dutch Blitz will clearly recognize many shared elements.
My feeling is that it's far enough removed to be fine, but I wanted to get a better idea of what other designers/publishers thought before I moved forward.
Since game mechanics can't have a copyright, and you have changed the theme and some of the play styles, I don't think this will be an issue.
At the end of the day, the publisher will need to decide for themselves if they think any additional changes are needed to avoid publishing issues.
Hopefully, they will pick up your game!
Quite a few mechanical changes soulds to me as it is different engouh to be on the save side regardin copyright issues.
So if thats the case - and I want to trust you without reading the rules of both games), I´d conclude it is legal to publish Zomie Blitz.
The other question is, how do you feel about the game. Is it yours? Or is it your variation of Werner Ernst George Muller´s game? And try to put yourselfe in his shoes. Would you feel betrayed? Maybe the best way to find out is to try to contact him and get his OK.
I don´t think we should only look at whats legal. The law is verry weak regarding copyright of boardgames mechanics / systems etc. So the only way to protect our ideas is an moral commitment of game desiners, not to vary games of other designers to bypass copyright.
But maybe your game is much more different, so this does not apply in this case.
An examples that come to my mind is the Russian version of Hey, thats my Fish" with a shark.
Forther, there is Dobble. It´s almost the same as Kunterbunt (Catch the Match) with a new artwork and less pictures per card.
Or look at Mutant Meeples. Is it more than a re-themed Ricochet Robots with a little variation?
Markus, you have to be really careful about giving legal advice. Rendition of legal advice by a person who is not licensed to do so can be the basis for a charge of unauthorized practice of law. If the OP is sued for copyright infringement you could be liable for damages for that statement. If you are a lawyer and giving your qualified legal opinion, please disregard, and thanks for contributing your expertise.
I am not a lawyer, but I've had to sign lots of contracts and review them with lots of lawyers. Game mechanics generally cannot be patented or copywritten. If you borrowed rules text, any images (templates) or descriptions from the other games those would be subject to copyright. You really should ask the publisher to review with their legal team, and I'd invest an hour or two with a lawyer yourself just to be sure. I think "Zombie Blitz" as a name may be infringing, so you probably would want to address that. Again, seek professional legal advice because being sued sucks.
Dutch Blitz was printed in 1960, so even if it had been patented, the patent would be expired by now. On that count, I think you're ok. I would be inclined to change the "Blitz" part as well, because as mentioned above, that may poke over into trademark issues.
In a less specifically legal sense (the "moral self policing" end), I'd say given the age of the game, you shouldn't worry about stepping on toes. 50 years is more than enough time for someone to see the fruits of their labor, and Dutch Blitz seems to share more similarities to Nertz (printed in 1930) than yours does to his, so if you wanted to go the further step of asking permission, I'd ask the designer of Nertz. Not only is he probably not alive, no-one is credited as the designer, so I'd say you've done due diligence.
I have a question concerning game mechanics. Did FFG get the rights to the game Dune, but not the IP, and thus made Rex : Final Days of an Empire instead, using their own IP.
But if the game mechanics are not copyright, and clearly they have not used any art from Dune, and even changed the game enough to be different (worse, in some peoples opinions), why did they need to license the game in the first place?
My understanding was that they had got the game IP anticipating that it would make getting the Book IP easier (sense of continuity for the Estate) and would have absolved issues if they had done it the other (I.e. if they had got book IP first they certainly would need game IP)
And the elephant in the room, the game IP was a lot cheaper than the book IP.
But why did they need to license the game mechanics from the original designer anyway? Apparently game mechanics cannot be copyright, only artwork, the written rules etc, but not the way the game is played.
Because when they did so, they had an expectation of getting the book IP as well. Getting the book and not the game license would have meant not being able to rely on any prewriiten material.
Plus, while FFG is the 700lb. Gorilla of US game companies, there is a moral issue which I think they wanted to stay on the good side of the many fans of the original game.
That's what I figured, it was more of an ethical decision. Cheers.