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Similar design to commercial game by chance? Risk for being sued?

4 replies [Last post]
Joined: 04/13/2010

We have been working on a prototype for about 6 years (just as a hobby project), but now we are thinking of publishing it. However, a game that is suspiciously similar to our design was just released. It also includes big battles, hexes, rivers and mountains that block movement and heroes questing in different provinces where magical items can be found. Luckily, their version is very similar to our initial versions but we have changed some stuff since then. Our stuff has been up on a private website with clear copyright-statements. I doubt that they have stumbled on the site, and most likely it is just by chance that the designs are similar (great nerds think alike). Anyone knows if we could get in any kind of trouble if we tried to publish? Could they sue us for "copied design"? We have all the computer files going back all the way to 2004 to prove that we have invented the design our selves and not copied this newly released game.
Check the picture that I added from our prototype "Goblins getting away with the magical stones"

Dralius's picture
Joined: 07/26/2008

Similarity in game designs is common look at all the trivia games where you move around a track and answer questions for a series of categories. I guess the question is “Does your game have something to offer?”

If it does and you’re not infringing on any IP like using proprietary language, trade dress etc… then go for it. You can’t copyright a game just the expression of the rules, art, etc... There have been some patents for game mechanics like the famous WoC card tapping one but this has never gone to court. In the end if it worries you consult a lawyer. You may want to do that anyhow to help you set up your business.

BTW- the game looks cool. Let me know how it goes.

ReneWiersma's picture
Joined: 08/08/2008
From a legal point, it's

From a legal point, it's probably not a problem. There are so many new, games coming out each year (at least 400 globally) that some are bound to be similar to existing games. Similar themes, similar mechanics, similar art. As long as you are not copying artwork and rules text word-by-word, you are in the green.

From a commercial standpoint you have to worry about whether your games are not too similar. If the other game is a commercial success (which means a significant amount of your target audience may have heard of it, or even bought it) , then you have to think about what sets your game apart from the other game. When you delve into it, you may find that the games are only superfacially similar, but the actual details make the game really different. You might want to change the theme slightly to make the similarity less obvious - some people would not want to have two games "about Goblins and magic stones" even though the game play might make them very different.

Joined: 04/13/2010
ok, thanks for the comments.

ok, thanks for the comments. Good to hear that most seem to think I'm safe (I haven't copied anything for sure).
And yes, you are right, the real question is: do my game have something to offer other than the already commercially available one.
Actually, the battle mechanics and the overall game mechanics are very different. However, the theme is very similar. This is kind of annoying, since much of the work have been put into the theme (art for pictures and thematic action cards that are different for the different races). To work it all over to change theme is too much work for me, so I think I'll try to launch it the way it is. We'll see how that goes...
Thanks again!!

marduk's picture
Joined: 05/18/2010
Sounds like a tough battle

Sounds like you are up against a certain game from FFG featuring err some runes gathered within a war...

thats a tough fight against a very popular game produced by a heavyweight.

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