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Patent - Copyright - Trademark

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First Timer
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As stated in my previous topic I'm at the prototyping phase. Before I bring it to kickstarter I wondering if I need to do any of the "Protection Barriers".

My research has found that patenting a game is pretty much useless and along with that a big waste of money. So I've learned something!

Things get fuzzy for me with regard to trademarking and copyrighting. I'm unclear what falls where and if it should be done.

The eventual artwork for my game wouldn't truly be mine to protect. My game instructions I think would need some protection. The name of my game definitely would need protection and I believe that falls under trademarking.

Can I protect the game cards (trivia questions) pulled from many, many websites?
My game pieces and game board are significantly different than any other game pieces out there. Can I protect these and where do they fall, copyrighting or trademarking?

Thank You

questccg
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Who are you trying to "protect" yourself from?

I'm a bit worried, maybe more disturbed about some of what you have written. So let me go over it and try to address my concerns.

First Timer wrote:
My research has found that patenting a game is pretty much useless and along with that a big waste of money. So I've learned something!

Yes a total complete waste of money and effort... Unless you are patenting something like "Magic: the Gathering" with fresh new concepts that will be unique and never seen before ways of playing... But for most designs, not worth the money. You are correct, give the man 1 Point.

First Timer wrote:
Things get fuzzy for me with regard to trademarking and copyrighting. I'm unclear what falls where and if it should be done.

The thing to remember is WHAT are you planning to trademark or copyright. You can have a trademark on the name of the game. And you can copyright the game's Logo (for example).

First Timer wrote:
The eventual artwork for my game wouldn't truly be mine to protect.

THIS is where I'm a bit concerned. If it's not yours to protect, do you have some kind of CONTRACT that allows you to USE said artwork for your game??? Is it someone you know who is doing a "Freebie" but you'll never own the artwork "outright"?? Because USUALLY when you design a Board Game (or Card Game), ART is the FIRST thing that you would want to OWN.

Why? Because it gives you control over manufacturing and/or the possibility of selling the DESIGN to a Publisher... Who may or may not be interested in the artwork. But NOT owning said artwork ... is a bit peculiar to say the least.

...

There is no other reason to protect the game. It's your endeavor and accomplishment. What are you worried people in Spain are going to create illegal copies in Spanish to sell???

NAME(tm) + LOGO(c).

The rest ... you have to be aware of the figures. If this is your first game and you plan to Kickstart it... Think that you'll get under 250 backers your first time around. So be realistic and worry about the two (2) items that I have shared with you.

Don't sweat it... Worry about how good your game is going to be. Also think about "Self-Publishing" via Kickstarter or finding a Publisher and making some kind of arrangement with them.

Cheers!

Note #1: Another point is that "usually" most Party Games like "Trivia" games don't do so good on Kickstarter. Not all ... some like "Whatever" (Ali and co.) managed to fund. See URL link:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1280068916/whatever-a-party-game

Their goal was $11,500 and they made maybe $1,500 above their goal with 162 backers.

So just a fair warning about KS success in the Trivia/Party Game category of games...

Note #2: About Patenting... What I meant is that Magic: the Gathering put forth NEW and INNOVATIVE "ways of playing" the game with concepts like "Tap-ing" and rotating the card 90 degrees, in addition to the format of their cards (since the game is ONLY cards). All artwork is copyrighted and comes from an array of artists/illustrators.

So getting back to the WHAT can be patented:

If your game has novel mechanics that could be used in ANOTHER game with completely different design... Well then maybe you would want to protect those NEW and NOVEL mechanics. This is a bitch, because all games can "Exhaust" cards ... we just can't call it "Tap-ing". Had Donald X. Vaccarino created a PATENT for the "Deck-Building" mechanic ... he would probably be an even wealthier man... since anyone who would want to USE that mechanic in their game ... would most likely need to pay some kind of "royalty fee" for its use. Or more "specifically" we couldn't CALL IT "Deck-Building". We would be forced to use other terminology because mechanics can't be out-right patented. It could be something like "Dynamic Deck Construction"... Or something like that.

But then the game design community would be left on the short end of the stick and NOBODY would create ANY "Deck-Builders" except the owner of the patent... We'd have to create "Dynamic Deck Construction" or "Real-Time Deck Collection", etc. As we'd all have a hard time of creating our own name for a common mechanic with a different terminology!

See what I mean??? Good in one sense, bad in another. So if you have some very new and novel mechanics, you can maybe patent that. But be aware of community back-lash if your game becomes popular enough...

Tim Edwards
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First Timer wrote:As stated

First Timer wrote:
As stated in my previous topic I'm at the prototyping phase. Before I bring it to kickstarter I wondering if I need to do any of the "Protection Barriers".

My research has found that patenting a game is pretty much useless and along with that a big waste of money. So I've learned something!

Things get fuzzy for me with regard to trademarking and copyrighting. I'm unclear what falls where and if it should be done.

The eventual artwork for my game wouldn't truly be mine to protect. My game instructions I think would need some protection. The name of my game definitely would need protection and I believe that falls under trademarking.

Can I protect the game cards (trivia questions) pulled from many, many websites?
My game pieces and game board are significantly different than any other game pieces out there. Can I protect these and where do they fall, copyrighting or trademarking?

Thank You

The rules are your written work and you have automatic rights over them. You don't need to do anything special, although some people establish ownership by posting letters to themselves, etc (I guess publishing online would also date stamp the text if you didn't mind making it public.)

But when you say "protect the game cards", you surely aren't suggesting you can have rights over the questions which you yourself took from websites? :)

Look at it this way. If those questions are indeed copyrightable - then you don't have rights over them because you copied them. If those questions are for any particular reason not copyrightable - then, well, you don't have rights over them for those particular reasons.

You could always rephrase the questions so they contain some of your own property. That would put you in a better position.

questccg
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Here is a COPY of Richard Garfield Patent for Magic

USPTO = Magic: the Gathering Patent

I just made it easier to download the contents of the patent (all 19 pages!)

Correct me if I am wrong that a Patent lasts 20 years??? IF so the filling date is 1997 meaning that the patent is now public domain and no longer protected...

If so that would make me very happy that everyone can use the TERM "Tap-ing" for their collectible or trading card games!

(Maybe a delayed YAY!)

Note: I shared this just as a point-in-fact to WHAT it is you can patent. Like I said for most people it is pointless to patent their game. But in the rare occasions where things can be "easily borrowed" from a very innovative game ... Well then I DON'T want to be the guy that said: "Patents are 'worthless'" when Richard Garfield's patent was legally enforced for many years. And he in fact had SOMETHING to protect.

But generally speaking, most games BORROW mechanics, concepts, principles from other games. So don't be expecting to be too surprised on that front.

However in some circumstances, like I said it needs to be really something NOVEL and never seen before... and maybe then that can be patented.

Jay103
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This is in the US. I don't

This is in the US. I don't know about what happens in other countries, mostly.

Patent, no. You didn't do anything patentable. And it would cost a ton to get one. And then you'd have to try to enforce it. So just no.

Copyright is automatic. If you wrote it, it's copyrighted. Put "Copyright YEAR, YOUR_NAME" and you're good to go. Using the c-in-a-circle sign also works instead of the word "Copyright". I believe that "(C)" has no legal meaning, however.

Trademark is probably useful if you're intending commercial trade. Whether you need to REGISTER your trademark is another matter. Putting the little "tm" where you use your mark is sufficient. If you pay the government to get it registered and they accept it, then you can use the R-in-a-circle instead. "tm" is for things that aren't currently registered.

The rule for trademarks is that the first appearance on the work in question is the only one that needs the mark. Make the "tm" part of your actual logo file, and then after the first appearance of the name of your game in text, for example on your website. The logo and the text name are separate trademarks.

You're only trademarking a logo, or a particularly important, unique name (like "Mickey Mouse"). The purpose of a trademark is so that another company can't confuse a customer who sees a game box in a store. If it has your "mark" on it (e.g. the logo), it's the one that's yours. Pepsi can't slap Coke logos on bottles to try to trick people to buying those instead.

---

Copyright is the thing you want, and the thing you have already.

Your set of trivia questions is copyrightable if you didn't steal the question/answer text from somewhere else (in which case you're violating someone else's copyright). The act of collecting information and organizing and formatting it in a certain way IS worthy of copyright protection. For example, a White Pages phone book is copyrighted.

Happy to answer any more questions.

Oh, and the bad news is that no matter how interesting and unique your game pieces and board are, nobody's going to care enough to copy them unless you're a HUGE success, and if it happens you won't be able to do anything about it anyway.

Jay103
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questccg wrote: Correct me if

questccg wrote:

Correct me if I am wrong that a Patent lasts 20 years??? IF so the filling date is 1997 meaning that the patent is now public domain and no longer protected...

20 years from the date of filing, which in this case was 23 years ago tomorrow. So that's an expired patent.

Jay103
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questccg wrote: If your game

questccg wrote:

If your game has novel mechanics that could be used in ANOTHER game with completely different design... Well then maybe you would want to protect those NEW and NOVEL mechanics. This is a bitch, because all games can "Exhaust" cards ... we just can't call it "Tap-ing". Had Donald X. Vaccarino created a PATENT for the "Deck-Building" mechanic ... he would probably be an even wealthier man... since anyone who would want to USE that mechanic in their game ... would most likely need to pay some kind of "royalty fee" for its use. Or more "specifically" we couldn't CALL IT "Deck-Building". We would be forced to use other terminology because mechanics can't be out-right patented. It could be something like "Dynamic Deck Construction"... Or something like that.

You'd also have to show that nobody else ever did what you're patenting before you. And there are a LOT of games out there. And the only thing it would take for a competitor to invalidate your patent after the fact is finding one game that does what you claim in your patent.

FrankM
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Marks vs. Copyright

IANAL, but...

As mentioned, any text you write down will be copyrighted automatically, though it certainly doesn't hurt to remind people of that with a copyright notice early in the rulebook and perhaps somewhere on the box. This copyright covers text that you write, images you create, and to some extent the layout and "look and feel" of your product.

Trademark is used to protect someone's competitive position in a trade, so that others can't pretend to be you in the market. Depending on how people identify providers in a market, trademarks can get kind of funky. There is a brand of painter's tape that trademarked blue tape, and a brand of luxury shoes that trademarked red soles. I know the red sole one has prevailed in court, not sure about the blue tape.

Purely functional aspects on your product cannot be trademarked. Lawyers make a lot of money arguing back and forth over what is functional and what is artistic (For example, which applies to "slimming lines" on a dress?), but for a card game, these matters are fairly straightforward.

When you put the little TM next to a graphic, you're saying this is what represents you to the market. In essence, your logo. The Lord of the Rings people put a TM on every major character's name, which is pretty excessive. A trademark registered with the government can use the R-in-a-circle symbol.

If your logo is basically a word in a specific font, it's known as a wordmark. A wordmark covers the word(s) in the text as well whenever used in the context of a name. For example, FedEx's wordmark prevents any other carrier from using the term "FedEx" whether in their distinctive font or not. A wordmark does NOT copyright the term since there usually isn't enough there to be considered a written work, but it will fall under your copyright for the whole rulebook.

Not really relevant here, but a trademark for a service is known as a service mark. The only real difference is that no one can expect you to stamp your service mark on the service itself, so you're only expected to use it in advertising.

Be aware that trademark is designed to protect you in your market only... people in unrelated industries can use the same name so long as it doesn't cause confusion. There can be an XYZ Jewelry company and XYZ Gaming company and XYZ Pencil company, etc. But be aware that only one of them will be able to grab XYZ.COM, and any of the others using your name can complicate your life down the road (the World Wildlife Fund sued the Worldwide Wrestling Federation over marketing under the initials WWF).

Finally, completely separate from your game's name and logo are your company's name and logo. If you're trading under your real name without any kind of corporation, then don't worry about this. If you're trading under any fictitious (company) name, that will eventually need to be registered with your state. You can get away with being a "promoter" for a not-yet-legally-established business for a while, but you don't get any of the legal protections associated with a business entity until that entity is actually registered.

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