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Copyright issues between book titles and game names.

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I wish to use a particular phrase for the name of a game I am currently working on. However, after a quick google search, there already appears to be a (somewhat obscure) book with the same title. My game is loosely based on the same setting (Fantasy), but otherwise they have nothing else in common. My question to anyone who knows about this sort of thing is: would I be breaching copyright if I release a game with the same name as a book? If I would, would it be likely that the breach would be enforced? Does it matter that the works are not similar in any way other than their names (and their genre)? Thanks in advance for any advice.

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Copyright? No, certainly not.

It could potentially be trademark infringement, although from what you've said it seems very unlikely that you'll be in any danger. As long as your game is clearly differentiable from the book so people can't reasonably mistake them for being related, then you should be fine.

Of course, as always: I'm not a lawyer, and am not qualified to give legal advice.

John B

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Ahh yeah, my bad, I get terminology mixed up.

Well, that was my hunch as well, but I wanted to make sure. As long as my work is clearly not trying to "rip off" the book, I should be okay? There's plenty of instances of a song title being the same as a book title/movie title/etc.

Edit: thanks for the reply, btw.

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There are no copyright issues. Titles are not protected by copyright. Unless, I suppose, they are very long titles.

The Court of Appeals has ruled -- e.g. Herbko v. Kappa -- that single book titles are not protected as a trademark, on several grounds, citing previous court decisions and the policy of the US Patents and Trademark Office.

Single book titles are protected under common law and unfair competition law if they have acquired secondary meaning: if people associate the title with a specific author or publisher. This is unlikely to be the case if the book truly is, as you believe, obscure.

The title of a series of books on the other hand, might well be protected as a trademark.

Note that this is different to how trademarks work for most other products. The courts treat literary works differently. If there was another single game with this title, they might have a trademark claim even if there is no secondary meaning.

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