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SilentSiren

Escalation-Online : Need some advice

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Hi, well Escalation-Online at Escalation-Online has been going for over 2 years now and we are making some great progress, however before I continue my hunt through the dozens and dozens of information that is on the web for which I can not find something specific enough so far I come here to ask for some easy broken down steps for which I know this is not something easy but if anyone can help I would be greatly indebted to you. Basically our team is of 10 members so far and I was wondering other than the 'Team' name Escalation does it cost a lot of money to 'Register' it so noone else can setup the name and 'fake' products by us. Also once this name is Registered would it mean that our Game Escalation-Online be lawfully protected by us other than through our IP rights. I apologise for coming across so confused but I am, just wondered if anyone here can point me in the right direction for protecting our game and becoming professional team name wise or if there was a website process that does it. Thank you in advance for all your replies. Escalation-Online Post on GameDev which shows more on what the game is Email contact at : taconline@msn.com or econtact@eml.cc

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It isn't that much of a hunt. :P

http://www.uspto.gov/

It costs money to legally protect your stuff. Hundreds, to thousands, depending on what/where and you will want a lawyer. If you don't feel like totally trademarking it, or don't have enough to, there's copyrighting it as a story or a database or something. Less protection, less cost.

http://www.copyright.gov/

That's about all I can help you with, kid. Good luck. :)

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In order to protect IP rights across a team, a central entity the existance of which can be proven, is needed, otherwise rights remain with the creators of work (they own the assets they make).

If you have PAID someone for those assets, and they accept that payment then that *can* be used in court to argue a transferral of ownership, but it is basically because of the question you're asking that lawyers make money in the games industy.

There's a thread touching on this in Help Wanted at the moment.

As a commercial venture, there are really only two ways to go:

One, you can assume personal liability and authority for the project. Any contracts are between you (personally) and your team members, and you (personally) take ownership of any and all assets. You effectively trade as a self-employed individual (as far as tax etc are concerned) and your team members as self-employed. Providing you trust everyone you work with not to screw you over and demand appropriate payment for any service rendered before you're ready, you can get away with things this way.

You can use a trading name under this system, copyright things to that entity (its existance proven by a 'trading as' bank account and status with the tax office) and basically operate to all intents and purposes as a commercial entity.

But you're *personally* liable if things screw up - your personal assets are subject to seizure / receivership and you can be made bankrupt.

This (setting up a business / organisation) doesn't cost anything other than some time.

Which brings us to option two, the limited company. This protects you from personal liability, but requires you to separate your personal accounts from those of the company, which trades as its own entity, with you as a director (a declarable state as far as the tax office is concerned). The company itself holds assets and is liable to cover debts if demanded (including for work!) leaving your personal assets untouched, unless you can be proven to have abused your position. Do things properly!

The company option lends weight to your team - it costs money to set up (I paid around £350 for a full company pack - lots of documentation, official seal, and use of my accountants as registered office). It also provides a discrete entity for legal documentations - this makes drawing contracts up a bit easier, and provides a single, verifiable point of ownership (via handover contracts) of IP rights. Companies can be set up for a lot less, if you're willing to cut some corners.

That covers the team identity side of things, but you're also asking about ownership rights. Copyright remains with the creator unless explicitly transferred, as does the right to be identified as the author of the work. If you want your team members to transfer ownership to the team, they can do so, but bear in mind that if they can prove they are the originator of the work and that you did not pay for it they can force you to rescind ownership back to them. It's a good idea, if you trust your team, to leave copyright in their hands until you are nearly ready to release. Then get appropriate handover contracts drafted (expect £1000+ cost here).

Trademarking (TM), (R) describes that you are trading a brand of item. I'm not a lawyer but my current understanding (quite possibly wrong) is that:
(TM) or unregistered trademarks are simply advertising the fact that you are using the name for your product. Priority goes to first proven use, unless withdrawn from the public domain. There's no cost to using these.

(R) or registered trademarks are the same as the above, only registered with a central office which makes their first use publicly documented. I believe there's a small registration charge.

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