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Dan Lee Rogers

Member Since 29 Oct 2012
Offline Last Active Oct 30 2012 04:36 PM

#4995434 can you copyright a game combat system?

Posted by on 30 October 2012 - 08:43 AM

You've gotten plenty of information here, from various sources, and most of it is accurate. However, let me give you some practical advice:

Re. Copyright - as discussed by numerous individuals above, a copyright protects the specific expression of a work. In the video game world, two items can generally be protected by copyright: a) the code; b) the performance (so to speak). Think of the performance as the combination of the story, script, setting, actions, characters, etc. Movies can be copyrighted in the same way, and although they don't have interactivity, there are many components that in combination can be protected. The code too can be copyrighted. Should you copyright your game? Yes, it always makes sense to do so. Will copyright protect your combat system? Maybe. Here's the difficulty. The copyright of the code would protect from someone taking your code verbatim and using it again. It would be more difficult however to prove infringement if they used it as reference but created their own system.

Re. Patent - As numerous individuals suggest, a patent of a combat system is probably available. For example, in the game business the ghost car patent protects its owner from infringement. In the same way, theoretically, a patent of your unique combat system would protect you. But here's the difficulty: patents are very expensive to obtain, and astronomically expensive to litigate. To give you an example, most good patent attorneys will tell you that your base line cost (US) to obtain a US patent is in the neighborhood of $50-$80K. Litigation is in the millions. My guess is that unless you have an aunt who is a patent attorney with lots of time on her hands, the patent is out of reach.

Option 3: a well written license, protecting your trade secrets. I won't go into the details here, but if your system is unique and attractive to others, the buy versus build option for them may allow you to exploit your property with a semblance of protection.

And yes, I'm an IP attorney working primarily in the video game and social media industries. That said, this does not constitute legal advice nor does it confer any sort of legal relationship between us. I'm simply adding my two-cents to a general discussion of the differences between IP rights.

Best of luck out there.


BTW: You may find a few of the articles I've written on copyright, etc. informative. Try: http://dlr-law.com/3/post/2012/08/zyngas-key-defense.html

#4995084 copyright? mechs?

Posted by on 29 October 2012 - 09:32 AM


You may want to read my article on EA's copyright infringement claim against Zynga: http://dlr-law.com/3/post/2012/08/zyngas-key-defense.html

In the article I outline the basic idea of what can and can't be copyrighted.

While I am NOT giving you legal advice here, the basic idea of a robotic warrior, as in MechWarrior, as in the television series Falling Skies, as in BattleTech games, as in Sierra/Dynamix's Metaltech video game series, has been repeated in television, movies, and games to the point that a unique unit with similar attributes would probably not infringe the MechWarrior franchise under the scenes a faire doctrine.

That said, as you mention, you DO NOT have the right to copy the specific mechs within the Mechwarrior universe, nor copy their specific attributes, etc.

As I've mentioned in previous posts, this is NOT specific legal advice and the purpose of my response is editorial only, to communicate the basic ideas and concepts of copyright and copyright defenses. Make sure you clear your specific creations with a knowledgeable lawyer before you publish. There's lots of gotchas out there. For example, Treasure Island may be in the public domain, but Disney's Treasure Island film, including the specific deviations they've taken from the original book, are protected. :)

Good luck out there.