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JDX_John

Legality of obvious clones

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I've been playing Worms recently on the iPad and been reminded how great it is. I was wondering if I created a clone called 'Grubs' or 'Maggotz' which was clearly a clone, where do I stand legally? You can't legally protect a game style can you?

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You can't legally protect a game style can you?

You can definitely protect your game branding.
There may or may not be a lawsuit depending on:
- Are they willing to enforce their claim (in other words, do they want to go in courth against you and/or settle this out of courth)
- Are you a threat to their brand (I'd google Mojang vs Bethesda on "Scrolls")
- Are they even aware of your existence (in the case of indie games, most likely not)
- Are you profitting from this? (if you're just showcasing under open source licensing, this may or may not apply).

I'd say that if you are not a proeminent player, you can risk yourself at it, but just know that they may gain the upper hand.
I would personally make a search on linux "gnomes" which is an appelation often employ to designate games that originate from windows environment and were remade from scratch by indies to be re-branded and work on linux as "working clones" of the original product.
You'll notice that the branding sometimes differ in specific areas.

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if I created a clone ... which was clearly a clone, where do I stand legally? You can't legally protect a game style can you?


http://sloperama.com/advice/faq61.htm

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Thanks Tom but the two most specific answers you give seem to fall on either side of what I'm asking:

5. What if the only thing I want to borrow is the gameplay - say, the idea of jumping on things and collecting coins?
Fine. Don't worry about it.
5½. So I can make a Mario game as long as it doesn't have Mario in it or have "Mario" in the title?
No. You also can't use the Mario music or sound effects, and you can't use any of the other Mario characters (you know, the ones who aren't Mario himself), and you shouldn't simply copy the Mario gameplay exactly.[/quote]I am talking about technically only copying the gameplay, but at a much more detailed level than "collecting coins"... with Worms you could copy the same weapons (apart from ones they invented) and mechanics exactly, create all your own music and art, etc.

So does a clone which is very clearly a total rip-off but does not re-use any actual IP still count as question 5? Barring software patents...

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So does a clone which is very clearly a total rip-off but does not re-use any actual IP still count as question 5? Barring software patents...


As a rule of thumb, if you are unsure, don't do it, The nasty thing about IP laws is that there are tons of gray areas and some companies are far more aggressive than others, You can get sued even if what you do is perfectly legal. (and while you may win in the end you might have to spend years fighting for your rights in court), setting out with the goal to create a blatant rip-off is never a good idea. (Even if you don't get sued alot of potential customers will despise you for it)

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So does a clone which is very clearly a total rip-off but does not re-use any actual IP still count as question 5? Barring software patents...


This is a question that would be decided by a jury if your game goes to court. "Is it very clearly a total rip-off?" That's the question 12 people (from all walks of life) would look at and decide. If the decision is yes, the case is likely going to go against you. Maybe it would be better not to go to court at all, don't you think?

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You can of course get sued for anything.
And though Tom's advice is excellent as always, I'd modify his comment above slightly.
The Jury isn't asked "is this game a ripoff".
They Jury is given specific instructions by a Judge, and they have to arrive at a verdict in accordance with those instructions.

That said, it's fairly well established that "gameplay" is not something that falls under copyright protection.
if you are serious about making a game 'highly influenced by" another game, you should talk to a game attorney well versed in the issue.

At the very least, do your own research--and I'd certainly read (and fully understand) the 39-page judgement in the recent Tetris case (link provided below).

http://www.loeb.com/...tris v. XIO.pdf

Brian Schmidt
Register now for GameSoundCon 2012, San Francisco
October 24-25, Pyramind Studios, San Francisco, CA
www.GameSoundCon.com Edited by bschmidt1962

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Is it a relevant factor whether other clones already exist and haven't been targeted? For instance there are 2 big-name worms clones (hedgewars & Warmux) and then things become a bit less clear whether 'worms gameplay' is a game style or one game... e.g.a FPS is now a very generic style since there are so many of them.

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My guess is, if you start by trying to make a worms clone, you will probably end up falling into at least the grey area, if not outright copyright infringement. If you're thinking of calling such a game 'Grubs' or 'Maggotz', then I feel you would almost certainly end up infringing.

The existence of other clones indicates that - today - any companies who could claim infringement aren't particularly interested in doing so. However that could change tomorrow - for example I would expect that if there was going to be a "Worms movie" (stupider things have happened), some lawyers would be taking a lot more interest in the IP of this area.

For more reasons than just legal, you should strive to make your own games. Take inspiration, but ensure that you're bringing something creative to the mix. Think of a new (or old) mechanic that could be mixed in with that type of game, something that will change the gameplay - not just adding more weapons or something. Maybe instead of worms crawling around terrain, you might make a game where little space suited people - maybe with jetpacks - are fighting through a slowly moving asteroid field. The addition of constant movement would be a game design challenge but you can certainly think of lots of new ideas, such as maybe using some kind of stylised gravity mechanic which curves the paths of projectiles around large asteroids! Perhaps such a game has been made, but I haven't seen it.

The resulting games should be more fun, more interesting, more marketable, and incidentally less infringing. Edited by rip-off

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2 big-name worms clones (hedgewars & Warmux)


Never heard of them, and that could be why they wouldn't be targetted.
Unless they are a threat, they generally end up "under the radar" although you'd be surprised by the amount of people hired to make sure a brand's property is respected.
Certain companies (SquareEnix) are pretty fast on the cease-and-desist letters during development of clones...

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