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Computer vs Physical Games?


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#1 sevenfold1   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 06:31 AM

Let's say someone created and commerically sold a game (board game, puzzle game, etc..) before computers were popular.
This is a physical game. In other words, you can play it using your hands.

Now, let's say, today, someone else created a computer game (iPhone, Windows, etc...) based on the same game concept.
But, of course, the names and graphics are all different.

Question is, is the game logic, game rules, or game play (the way a game is played) copyrighted?
Would it matter (in terms of not getting sued) if the game was first created as a physical game?

Thanks

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#2 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8499

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 07:04 AM

1. is the game logic, game rules, or game play (the way a game is played) copyrighted?

2. Would it matter (in terms of not getting sued) if the game was first created as a physical game?


1. No. Copyright does not apply. It might be patented, though.
2. No. You can be sued for anything.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#3 sevenfold1   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 08:08 AM

<br />

<br />1. is the game logic, game rules, or game play (the way a game is played) copyrighted?  <br /><br />2. Would it matter (in terms of not getting sued) if the game was first created as a physical game?<br />

<br /><br />1. No. Copyright does not apply.  It might be patented, though.<br />2. No. You can be sued for anything.<br />

<br /><br /><br />

But, patents expire after 20 years?

So, if I were planning to create a knock-off or clone of a board/puzzle/logic game that filed a patent before 1990,
as long as I created my own names and artwork, it would be fair game? Rules and gameplay may be similar or identical.

#4 DarklyDreaming   Members   -  Reputation: 363

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 08:14 AM

<br />

<br />1. is the game logic, game rules, or game play (the way a game is played) copyrighted? <br /><br />2. Would it matter (in terms of not getting sued) if the game was first created as a physical game?<br />

<br /><br />1. No. Copyright does not apply. It might be patented, though.<br />2. No. You can be sued for anything.<br />

<br /><br /><br />

But, patents expire after 20 years?

So, if I were planning to create a knock-off or clone of a board/puzzle/logic game that filed a patent before 1990,
as long as I created my own names and artwork, it would be fair game? Rules and gameplay may be similar or identical.


Who knows? Only if they let the patent go and did not bother renewing it. Why not check with the US patent office? Or your local legal advisor.
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#5 sevenfold1   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 08:28 AM

<br />

<br />

&lt;br /&gt;

&lt;br /&gt;1. is the game logic, game rules, or game play (the way a game is played) copyrighted?  &lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;2. Would it matter (in terms of not getting sued) if the game was first created as a physical game?&lt;br /&gt;

&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;1. No. Copyright does not apply.  It might be patented, though.&lt;br /&gt;2. No. You can be sued for anything.&lt;br /&gt;

&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;&lt;br /&gt;<br /><br />But, patents expire after 20 years?<br /><br />So, if I were planning to create a knock-off or clone of a board/puzzle/logic game that filed a patent before 1990, <br />as long as I created my own names and artwork, it would be fair game?  Rules and gameplay may be similar or identical.<br />

<br /><br />Who knows? Only if they let the patent go and did not bother renewing it. Why not check with the US patent office? Or your local legal advisor.<br />

<br /><br /><br />

Well, some of the games I'm looking at may have filed patents in the early 1900s, so I'm sure the original owners are dead by now.
But, sure, patents can be sold, transferred, inherited, or renewed I suppose.

#6 Olof Hedman   Crossbones+   -  Reputation: 2619

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 08:39 AM

Well, some of the games I'm looking at may have filed patents in the early 1900s, so I'm sure the original owners are dead by now.
But, sure, patents can be sold, transferred, inherited, or renewed I suppose.


If it was any commercial success, it probably was patented, and was probably at some point sold to a company that possibly still exists, and that might or might not have renewed it, and might or might not care about enforcing their patent.

In other words, its pretty much impossible to say anything in general and you will need legal advice.

#7 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18398

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 11:48 AM

There is much more to IP rights than the big three of copyright, patent and trademark.

Mona Ibrahim wrote about this in her blog. See these two articles that cover a wide range of IP rights that may be involved. These include trade dress, unfair competition, and even defamation.


Also, legal action is not necessarily a lawsuit. It can start through email or paper letter or phone call and is a fairly friendly discussion. It may then become a Cease and Desist request... although less friendly groups often start at the C&D. Then may come requests at mediation. Lawsuits are costly and smart companies try to avoid them; judges can require that civil suits go through mediation before hearing them at all.


As for the game, you never mention what game it is. If you are talking about a remake of Mansion of Happiness from the year 1800 by a group that is long dead, then there is very little legal risk. If you are talking about a game published 25 years ago by Milton Bradley, then expect to be contacted by Hasbro.

And finally, if the physical game you are talking about is still being made today, you should certainly expect legal action.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#8 sevenfold1   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 07:38 PM

Thanks.

I have a another question about patents and physical games.

Let's say the physical game has a patent that describes a specific board/grid size, and a specific number
of playing items on the board, arranged in a specific order.

Obviously, a physical game can't change it's board size, and can't change it's playing items,
or their locations.

So, let's say someone created a similar computer game and made it customizable, by increasing
the board size, or the number of playing items.

Wouldn't we have a game now that has never been described by the patent?

For example, let's say someone filed a patent for a 20 piece jigsaw puzzle, a fixed
physical game.

Then, someone later wrote a computer program that could create a jigsaw puzzle of any size,
and of any arrangement. Would you say this computer program violated that patent?

#9 frob   Moderators   -  Reputation: 18398

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 11:00 PM

So what if it does? How do you imagine it alters the risk in any way? The only way to understand the risks is to take all your details and discuss thm with an IP lawyer who is familiar with the industry.

Are you prepared to go through the expense of a long legal battle with a major corporation just to prove that you are right? What if the judge agrees with them and you lose?

It is much better just to create something original yourself. Don't clone other people's stuff.

Are you creative? If so, then prove it by creating something new.

If you aren't creative, well, you are probably in the wrong business.
Check out my personal indie blog at bryanwagstaff.com.

#10 Tom Sloper   Moderators   -  Reputation: 8499

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Posted 07 November 2011 - 11:02 PM

Seven, you should contact a good IP lawyer with your questions. He'd be required to keep your game confidential, so you wouldn't have to talk circumspectly with him.
-- Tom Sloper
Sloperama Productions
Making games fun and getting them done.
www.sloperama.com

Please do not PM me. My email address is easy to find, but note that I do not give private advice.

#11 sevenfold1   Members   -  Reputation: 122

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 07:47 AM

I'm making a clone of a basic puzzle game as learning experience in game design and programming.
And I plan to eventually sell it, or maybe even give it away for free.

I just don't want to pick something and get hit with a patent lawsuit.

But I think the best route is to pick something that many people have already cloned,
so there's little risk to me.

#12 TylerBetable   Members   -  Reputation: 134

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Posted 08 November 2011 - 12:04 PM

Honestly, there's a ton of precedent set by people that copy a game's core features & gameplay, but change it around enough that they can get away with it. Just look at Words With Friends.

The key is to know ahead of time what your case will be if presented with a Cease and Desist notice. If that day does finally come, you need to be sure that you're not intimidated by lawyers. Often times, people's fear of lawyers is more important than the actual lawsuit!

Just my 2c
I work for Betable, a game monetization platform. I also write about startups, gaming, and marketing.




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