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stevesan

Building on Tetris - legal issues?

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stevesan    134
[color=#000000][font=Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=3]I got an idea for a game that builds on top of Tetris. It will be pretty clear that it's not just a Tetris clone, and it's even more unlike Tetris than, say, Tetrinet (which is awesome!!). But, the influence will be obvious and a huge part of the game. So, should I expect any legal issues to arise if I might make some money off of this, or am I OK? Maybe I'm better off adopting the Match-3 mechanic, which could work for my idea as well.[/size][/font][/color]

[color=#000000][font=Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=3]Also, what would be the legal implications of actually using "Tetris" or a part of that word in the title? Would I be forced to release it for free, etc.?[/size][/font][/color]

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kdog77    229
Using "Tetris" in the title of your game would certainly be trademark infringement.

The other questions would be best answered by your attorney. Good luck!

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jbadams    25676
You should speak to an lawyer if you have any intention of doing business, or for that matter if you're releasing a free game but want to be sure of your legal standing.

That being said...
[quote name='stevesan' timestamp='1330037226' post='4916007']
[left]Also, what would be the legal implications of actually using "Tetris" or a part of that word in the title?[/left]
Would I be forced to release it for free, etc.?
[/quote]
Just don't do this.
Releasing your game for free wouldn't help -- it's still a Trademark violation and you could still be taken to court and forced to pay damages if you lose, which you probably would in a case where you're clearly using a well-known Trademark without permission. Even if you somehow won such a case you would still be stuck with expensive legal fees. The name Tetris belongs to the Tetris company -- [i]just don't use it[/i].

I seem to recall some examples where the Tetris company has gone after other "falling block" type games simply because they had "tris" at the end of the title.

[quote name='stevesan' timestamp='1330037226' post='4916007']
So, should I expect any legal issues to arise if I might make some money off of this, or am I OK?
[/quote]
Again, whether or not you make any money doesn't really change anything -- if you lose a court case you might have to pay higher damages if you made money with an infringing product, but it won't make any difference to your risk of being taken to court in the first place, or of your chances of losing such a case.

[quote name='stevesan' timestamp='1330037226' post='4916007']
It will be pretty clear that it's not just a Tetris clone, and it's even more unlike Tetris than, say, Tetrinet (which is awesome!!). But, the influence will be obvious and a huge part of the game. *snip*
[left][color=#000000][font=Verdana, Helvetica, sans-serif][size=3]Maybe I'm better off adopting the Match-3 mechanic, which could work for my idea as well.[/size][/font][/color][/left]

[/quote]
This is all about risk management.

You can be taken to court even if you're completely within your rights, and whilst in that case you might win the case reasonably easily you would still be stuck with expensive legal fees. That's a very small risk though -- it isn't likely to actually happen -- but it also isn't the actual situation at hand.

So, the more similar your game is to Tetris, the more risk you have that they will decide to take you to court, and the more risk you have of losing if that happens. If your game is very different you might decide the risk is very small and that you're willing to take it on. If your game is quite obviously similar the risk will be larger, and you may not want to risk it. You should be able to reason about this for yourself to some degree, but if you want to be more sure you should speak to a lawyer.

Given you've said your idea would also work with a match-3 style mechanic (which doesn't really belong to anyone in particular as long as you don't otherwise copy another game's copy-protected or trademarked elements) you would probably be better off going with that option to be safer.


I hope that's helpful! [img]http://public.gamedev.net//public/style_emoticons/default/smile.png[/img]

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stevesan    134
Thanks, folks. That was all quite helpful. Given these unfortunate circumstances, it sounds like I'm better off prototyping with the Match-3 mechanic.

I do wonder: How did TetriNET get away with it? That game is still around and it's still free.

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SimonForsman    7642
[quote name='stevesan' timestamp='1330071557' post='4916136']
I do wonder: How did TetriNET get away with it? That game is still around and it's still free.
[/quote]

Pure luck, Allthough TetriNET2 got shut down in 2007 on a request from the Tetris Company(it came back online in 2010, I'm not sure if they managed to obtain permission or not though)

The Tetris Company is taking a very hard stance against anything that even remotely competes with their products, even games that are simply using similar game mechanics have been shut down, (Most freeware game developers can't afford to fight it out in court and there have been atleast a few games that got shut down without actually infringing on any of The Tetris Companys IP simply because the developers didn't want to deal with a legal battle).

Thus: If you're not prepared to fight the Tetris Company in court or have your work shut down you shouldn't do anything that might draw their attention to you.

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Cornstalks    7030
[quote name='SimonForsman' timestamp='1330090376' post='4916186']
Thus: If you're not prepared to fight the Tetris Company in court [...] you shouldn't do anything that might draw their attention to you.
[/quote]
This. And realize that legal battles are horribly expensive. Even if you end up being in the right, you will be drowned in legal fees. They have an army of lawyers and enough money to pay them all, even if they do lose. Do you?

The word "Tetris" is most definitely trade marked, and using it would be suicide. Even using "tetri-" or "-tris" may bring you a cease and desist followed by an expensive lawsuit (which you may or may not win, but either way you lose because of the cost of a legal battle).

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