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Legality of using another games parts?

5 replies [Last post]
shadowkn's picture
Joined: 07/17/2010

I notice that some game parts for published games are available for purchase. Some things are generic such as 10mm wooden cubes. But, there are also unique plastic and wood parts that can be found as well. Is there any legal issue to using these custom parts in an independent board game design? For example if I start using Settler of Catan city tokens does that cause an issue? What about the plastic zombies for the "Zombies!!!" game?

rpghost's picture
Joined: 03/03/2009
I would say anything that

I would say anything that could be considered a "design" would be off limits as someone had to draw or sculpt it and thus they would fall into copyright laws. If it's just a cube or something basic, not an issue. Catan style cities- questionable... I'm not a lawyer :)

We sell tons of bits at and the ones we have were sold to us by the german companies not the people who originally made them thus I think they are safe to use.


truekid games
truekid games's picture
Joined: 10/29/2008
i am not a lawyer, but here's

i am not a lawyer, but here's my 2 cents:

it depends on exactly what you're doing.

if you are COPYING a design or sculpt, you are potentially breaking copyright laws. if you take the pieces themselves (say, a catan or monopoly house, or a meeple) and use them elsewhere, you would not be breaking copyright laws by doing so, it's only if you try and remake the sculpt or whatever separately.

if the piece design is integral to the functionality of the game (especially in the case of moving parts, like "Mousetrap" or "Loopin Louie"), you could be potentially be breaking patent laws- however examples of this are usually pretty obvious and easy to avoid (and often have the relevant patent imprinted on the component or listed in the packaging or rulebook)

if the piece is representative enough of the game that the company got it trademarked, you wouldn't be able to use it in a game (though you could use it in other fields, potentially). I am unaware of any gamepiece that is specifically trademarked, but it's possible they're out there. trademarks would usually be clearly indicated as such on either the packaging, rules, or component itself.

notably, however, almost all pieces you see in games today are readily available from their original manufacturers (meeples, discs, monopoly houses, all the catan pieces, spinners, etc... and even some plastic and metal models), and can be used in games freely, regardless of how you acquire them (whether by ordering them or opening a billion copies of the game they were originally in), as long as you don't try to reproduce the method of manufacture or make a copy and manufacture them yourself.

if you have a specific example, you could ask here (we may be able to say "no, that's patented" or "sure, here's a link to a place you can order them"), and if still in doubt, you can always ask the company. small companies especially would probably be happy to have you help amortize the cost of their mold or die by buying a bunch of the components from them.

Joined: 08/11/2008
I've heard that the folks

I've heard that the folks that make the bag o' 100 zombies and the Zombies!!! game expressly forbid anyone from using their zombies in other games.

I'd be interested if anyone else can find a source for monsterish miniatures.

pelle's picture
Joined: 08/11/2008

It would be interesting to hear on what legal grounds they forbid you to use those zombies. Can't see how they could do that.

InvisibleJon's picture
Joined: 07/27/2008
Ownership of the artwork; the sculpt...

pelle wrote:
It would be interesting to hear on what legal grounds they forbid you to use those zombies. Can't see how they could do that.
Well, I figure that they own the artwork that is the sculpture of the zombies. You can't just "lift" the artwork from the tiles in Settlers of Catan and use it in your tile-based resource game. Similarly, I suspect you can't just buy a gross of Twilight Creations' zombie pawns and used them in your commercially-produced game.

...That's the way I figure it, at least.

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